On October 17, 1989, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Bay Area. The Loma Prieta earthquake caused $5,900,000,000 in property damage and was the most costly natural disaster at the time.
There was massive structural damage everywhere. Phone lines were dead and electrical power was disrupted. Bill Wipprecht, Security Officer for Wells Fargo Bank, in California, described the situation Wells Fargo’s Emergency Operations Center faced (from bankersonline.com):
Safe deposit boxes near the quake’s epicenter had actually toppled over, many nests had shifted to the point of toppling, and virtually all were out of alignment… there could be immediate danger to employees… customers would not be able to open their boxes… Vault doors were reported to have swung so hard that they knocked themselves out of alignment. If one has not been through a major earthquake, it is probably quite difficult to imagine this. Imagine, a one-ton door swinging back and forth like a shutter in the wind!
After 48 hours, some bank branches were running out of money. Armored car companies were not making deliveries.
With the electrical power still out in most areas, the armored car companies could not raise their electrically driven security garage doors.
Since most of the armored vehicles were in the garage at during the earthquake two days previously, they were locked inside! (One can only speculate why the armored couriers do not have backup power to open the doors.)
Yet, Wells Fargo customers lined up at ATMs and branches—many of whom did the day after the quake—were able to walk away with cash! Find out how . (Tip #1: Remove the backseat of a Lincoln limo when transporting $15 million.)