A powerful earthquake rattled through Northern California early Sunday morning, leaving dozens wounded and thousands without power. It is the strongest temblor to hit the Napa Valley area in nearly 25 years. VPC
Elizabeth Weise , USA TODAY4:47 p.m. EDT August 24, 2014
(Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)
NAPA, Calif. — The largest earthquake in a quarter century to rock the San Francisco Bay area left scores injured, at least 15 buildings uninhabitable and thousands without electricity Sunday in the heart of Northern California's scenic wine country.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties after the magnitude-6.0 earthquake struck around 3:20 a.m.
Mike Parness, city manager, said 15 or 16 buildings in the central downtown were "red tagged" after inspectors found damage left them too dangerous for people to enter. Several dozen other buildings were awaiting further evaluation.
"We've got a lot of workers out checking out homes and buildings,'' Parness said.
In the city's downtown section, a 10-foot chunk of brick and concrete was shaken from the corner of the old county courthouse building. Big chunks of rubble littered the lawn and street in front of the building.
The quake was centered near American Canyon about 6 miles southwest of Napa, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. It's the largest quake to hit the Napa Valley region near San Francisco since the Loma Prieta temblor in 1989.
At three people were reported in critical condition following quake injuries, officials said. One of them, a child injured by a falling fireplace, was airlifted to the University of California-Davis hospital for surgery.
Jack LaRochelle, public works director of the city of about 77,000 people, said 30 water mains were broken and requiring repairs.
After the initial shock wore off, an almost festive air prevailed in the city with tourists on rented bicycles riding through closed streets. At one point so many people were sending photos from their mobile phones that cellular systems were overwhelmed.
Most of the heavily damaged buildings were in the older, central area of town. Newer homes and buildings away from the center of city city suffered less damage, but many were without power, officials said.
That lack of power meant some residents who rely on well water were unable to get water. John Furtado headed into Napa to look for water.
"But we're doing fine overall. It's just some minor damage. A couple bottles of wine broke,'' he said.
Kelly Huston, a deputy director with the California Office of Emergency Services, said there were no reports of fatalities, but dozens were taken to local hospitals. Most injuries, he anticipated, would be from falling objects and debris.
Napa's local hospital, Queen of the Valley Medical Center, treated 120 patients Sunday, CEO Walt Mickens said. Most were treated for cuts and bruises, while three were admitted for broken bones and two for heart attacks.
"Our ER team has done so many sutures today," hospital spokeswoman Vanessa DeGier said.
Huston said several fires were burning in the area of the quake and that the state was dispatching urban search and rescue teams "much like we would on a wildfire." He said state officials would do a flyover shortly to assess damage. Further inspections could reveal more damage, he warned.
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Six structure fires were reported, John Callanan, Napa fire chief, said. In one of those fires, four mobile homes were destroyed.
At least 64,000 people are without power, state emergency officials say. The hardest hit area is Napa, where 20,786 homes and businesses have lost power, according to Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest power provider in the area. Other hard hit areas include Saint Helena, where nearly 4,300 customers are without power, Santa Rosa, where 4,500 customers have lost power and Sonoma, where 3,900 customers have lost power.
Calif. quake photos, updates take over social media
Napa Police Capt. Steve Potter said the area's 911 system was briefly overwhelmed by calls that came in shortly after the quake, but the system quickly came back.
There were no reported highway blockages, though Huston said there was a report of a buckled offramp on state Highway 72 at Sonoma.
Napa is a picturesque town known for its lush vineyards, robust wines and rolling hills. There was no electricity downtown early Sunday as residents walked looking fordamage. On Second Street, the masonry, wires and girders that make up the corner of the roof of a three-story historic building hung precariously over the sidewalk. A gaping hole was left where the masonry used to be. On the ground below a pile of bricks and rubble littered the sidewalk. Falling concrete damaged trees.
The historic Napa Valley Courthouse lost a portion of its roof, and police blocked off sections of the downtown to keep crowds away from the debris. Two other historical buildings — the Sam Kee Laundry, the Goodman Library — were also damaged.
Firefighters in the Napa Valley worked fast to slow home fires after arriving on scene to find water main breaks had damaged their ability to get water on the fires. VPC
The state has not requested federal assistance, as it was still evaluating the damage, Brad Alexander, chief of media relations for California's Office of Emergency Services, said.
"My Office of Emergency Services has been on full activation since early this morning and is working closely with state and local emergency managers, first responders and transportation officials to respond to impacts to residents and critical infrastructure," the governor said in a statement. "These public safety officials are doing all they can to help residents and those living in affected areas should follow their guidance and instruction."
As Napa, California business owners look over the damage, they say this is worse than the 1989 earthquake that hit the area. A magnitude 6.0 earthquake hit the Napa Valley early Sunday morning.
Douglas Edwards, 27, Napa resident, said the earthquake woke him up from a sound sleep.
"It was shaking so hard I was barely able to get myself and my daughter out," he said. "When I stood up, the floor moved so much, I fell back down again. I ran outside and you could see the transformers exploding in the sky. It was just flash, flash, flash."
Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd inspected damage at the Napa County administration building Sunday morning.
"It's devastated in there," he said. Ceilings collapsed, furniture scattered and file cabinets were upturned and on the floor. Dodd said normally the building would have been the site of emergency services coordination, however, because of the damage, emergency operations were moved to the sheriff's office in the southern part of the county.
"It'll be some time before we can go back to work in there," he said.
Dodd said the historic three-story Winship building, which lost a corner of its roof, looks to be a total loss. He said it had been completely renovated 10 years ago, and the renovation included a seismic upgrade, which is supposed to make buildings able to withstand an earthquake.
In the city of Sonoma, west of Napa, police and fire officials reported no significant damage or injuries from the earthquake, officials said on the city's website. It said they had no information from PG&E about when power would be restored to those homes and businesses experiences outages.
Napa earthquake evokes memories of 1989 quake
The quake — which occurred at a depth of just less than 7 miles — was felt as far north as Sacramento and as far south as Santa Cruz and was immediately followed by a series of small aftershocks.
According to USGS, nearly nine million people were estimated to have been exposed to varying levels of ground shaking.
It remains too early to provide a specific economic or insured loss estimate at this time, according to Aon Benfield, a reinsurance firm. However, the USGS's automated economic loss software predicted that there was a 27% chance that economic losses will end up beyond $1 billion, and a 35% chance that economic losses will top $100 million.
California quake one of the USA's strongest this year
The USGS said the quake is likely to produce 30 to 70 small aftershocks with magnitude 3 to 5 within the next week. The probability of a strong and possibly damaging aftershock with a magnitude of 5 or greater in the next week is 54%, the USGS said.
The quake is the strongest temblor to hit the USA outside Alaska this year, according to USGS. About five quakes of this magnitude or stronger hit the USA each year, many in or near Alaska.
Contributing: Greg Toppo, Donna Leinwand Leger, Katharine Lackey, Marisol Bello and Doyle Rice from McLean, Va.; Catalina Camia from D.C.; William M. Welch from Los Angeles