Magnitude 6.4 earthquake shakes parts of Northern California

Magnitude 6.4 earthquake shakes parts of Northern California

A powerful earthquake struck a rural part of northern California early Tuesday, shaking residents from their sleep, cutting power to 70,000 people and damaging some buildings and a road, officials said. Two injured were reported.

The 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck at 2:34 a.m. near Ferndale, a small community about 210 miles (345 kilometers) northwest of San Francisco and near the Pacific coast. The epicenter was just offshore at a depth of about 10 miles (16 kilometers). Numerous aftershocks followed.

The Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services initially tweeted that there were reports of “widespread damage to roads and homes,” but authorities later said there was significant damage, but overall less than was expected based on the magnitude of the tremors .

The region is part of California’s sparsely populated North Shore, home to redwood forests, mountains, a harbor and a state university. Long before the state legalized marijuana, Humboldt was part of the three-county Emerald Triangle, where clandestine cannabis production was legendary.

Two injuries were reported, but both people were expected to recover, County Sheriff’s Information Specialist Samantha Karges said in an email to The Associated Press. No deaths were immediately reported, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the California governor’s office of emergency services.

There was “some damage” to buildings and infrastructure, and two hospitals in the area lost power and were running on generators, but the extent of the damage was “minimal” compared to the magnitude of the quake, he said. There was also a report of a gas leak, he said.

Authorities closed a major bridge in Ferndale that showed damage. The State Highway Department tweeted a photo showing a crumpled sidewalk.

State Senator Mike McGuire, who represents the area, said the small town of Rio Dell, which is home to just a few thousand people, suffered most of the damage. McGuire said he was not in the area at the time of the quake but had received reports of “violent,” ongoing shaking.

There was a confirmed building fire, some buildings were falling off their foundations and the city’s water system was damaged, but it was unclear if homes and businesses were losing access to water, McGuire said.

About 72,000 people lost power, he said.

The blackout affected the main transmission line going into the region, and Pacific Gas & Electric’s restoration work was slowed because rain prevented a helicopter from being deployed to assess the damage, McGuire said. The utility expected power to be restored by evening, but residents should be prepared for more time without power, he said.

Humboldt County has a population of about 136,000 and is in a part of the state that has a long history of large earthquakes, including a magnitude 7.0 in 1980 and a magnitude 6.8 in 2014, according to the California Earthquake Authority.

The 26,000-inhabitant city of Eureka said on its website that “no significant damage” was reported immediately.

Dan Dixon, 40, from Eureka, said he and his wife were asleep when it woke them up and shook everything, knocking pictures around their home. Her little daughter, he said, slept while she was there.

“It was probably the strongest earthquake we’ve felt in the 15 years I’ve lived here,” he said. “It physically moved our bed.”

Ferndale resident Caroline Titus tweeted a video of her darkened home showing fallen furniture and smashed dishes.

“Our home is a 140 year old Victorian house. The North-South shaking is very evident in what has fallen,” she tweeted.

“That was a big deal,” she said in another tweet.

Larkin O’Leary, 41, from Santa Rosa, was traveling to spend her anniversary with her husband in Ferndale, where they were struck by an earthquake last year. They decided to give it another try and booked the romance package at a historic inn, in the same location as a year ago.

O’Leary said she woke up at 2:30 a.m. with a weird feeling and tried to go back to sleep.

“I lay back down and it was almost like someone jumped on the bed,” she said. “It was so terrifying.”

“It shook like I’ve never felt before. It was up, down, everywhere,” she said.

The couple quickly left Ferndale and returned to their home.

“Never again,” O’Leary said.

The earthquake occurred in an area known as the Mendocino Triple Junction, where three tectonic plates meet.

“We are at this moment in geological time where Humboldt County and the adjacent offshore area is the most exciting and dynamic area in California,” said Lori Dengler, professor emeritus of geology at Cal Poly Humboldt.

Dengler said it is typical for there to be uncertainty about damage after a large earthquake. However, she noted that much of the area is rural and timber frame construction is common, which has helped limit damage in the past.

The quake triggered the West Coast Warning System, which detects the onset of a quake and sends alerts to cellphones in the affected region, which can alert people to take safety precautions before strong tremors reach them.

About 270,000 people received notifications early Tuesday, said Ferguson, spokesman for Cal OES.

The quake came just days after a small 3.6-magnitude earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area, waking thousands of people before 4 a.m. Saturday and causing minor damage.

The earthquake was centered in El Cerrito, about 16 miles from downtown San Francisco.


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