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Once the video signal was cut, the only thing viewers could hear was Al Michaels. Not knowing whether he was on the air or not, the ABC sportscaster said, "That's the greatest opening in television, bar none.." Michaels was in San Francisco on Oct. 17 to cover the 1989 World Series but was soon covering the earthquake that rocked northern California.

The Oct. 23, 1989, issue of Broadcasting reported that Michaels, who had lived in the city, proved to be one of the network's secret weapons, providing an expertise to ABC's video coverage by identifying the scenes of destruction.

Local California stations, notably KRON-TV and KTVU(TV) San Francisco and KCRA-TV Sacramento, bravely provided the pictures and urgent public service announcements. Most stations were off the air only briefly and didn't suffer much damage. But the Santa Cruz bureau of KSBW(TV) Salinas was destroyed. Nonetheless, that night, a KSBW(TV) reporter was working from amid the rubble.