A magnitude 6.4 earthquake shakes Northern California, leaving 70k without power

A home is seen damaged after an earthquake in Rio Dell, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. A powerful earthquake rocked a rural stretch of the Northern California coast early Tuesday, jolting residents awake, cutting off power to 70,000 people, and damaging some buildings and a roadway, officials said. At least 11 injuries were reported.
Kent Porter/AP

California’s RIO DELL (AP) – Early on Tuesday, a massive earthquake that locals characterized as “violent” jolted a remote section of the Northern California coast, leaving 70,000 people without power and 11 injured just as a storm was due to arrive.

A little town located close to the Pacific coast and around 210 miles (345 kilometers) northwest of San Francisco had a magnitude 6.4 earthquake at 2:34 in the morning. Just offshore, at a depth of roughly 10 miles, was the epicenter (16 kilometers). There were lots of aftershocks.

Residents characterized the incident as unusually jarring despite the area being susceptible to earthquakes because it is a section of California’s sparsely inhabited, forested far north coast.

Dan Dixon, a 40-year-old resident of Eureka, claimed he and his wife were asleep when it shocked them out of their sleep and rocked everything in their home, knocking portraits on the floor. He said that their infant daughter slept through it.

In the fifteen years he had lived in the area, he claimed, “It was perhaps the most severe earthquake we had felt.” Our bed was actually moved.

According to Brian Ferguson, a representative for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, there was “some damage” to buildings and infrastructure in Humboldt County, and two hospitals in the area lost power and had to run on generators, but the extent of the damage seemed “minimal” in comparison to the magnitude of the earthquake.

Mountains, redwood woods, a harbor, and a state institution can all be found in the area. Humboldt was a part of the three-county Emerald Triangle, where illegal cannabis cultivation was famous, long before the state legalized marijuana.

According to reports, there were about 11 injuries, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office stated in a statement early in the afternoon. According to officials, two people died as a result of “medical emergencies” that occurred during or right after the earthquake.

According to Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci, damage was largely concentrated in the small towns of Rio Dell, Ferndale, and Fortuna.

Ghilarducci stated that evaluations were still in progress but did not provide details on the degree of damage to buildings and infrastructure. He added that included the amount of residences that would sustain enough damage to require residents to relocate.

This is another another illustration of how suddenly and without warning earthquakes may happen.

Authorities shut down a crucial Ferndale bridge after it was destroyed. A picture of the crumbled pavement was tweeted by the state traffic department.

Rio Dell, a town of only a few thousand people, took the brunt of the destruction, according to state senator Mike McGuire, who represents the region. The municipal water system was destroyed, he said, and a few buildings toppled off their foundations. However, it was not apparent whether any residences or businesses lost access to water.

More than 70,000 people, according to the authorities, lost power and stayed without it for about 12 hours following the earthquake.

The primary transmission line that enters the area was affected by the power outage, and Pacific Gas & Electric’s restoration efforts were hindered because rain made it impossible to utilize a helicopter to examine damage, according to McGuire. Residents should be ready for longer periods without power because the utility expected it to be back on by nightfall, he said.

A phone call to PG&E for comment was not immediately returned, but the company tweeted that technicians were responding to assess its systems “and doing everything necessary to minimize power and gas outages.”

According to the California Earthquake Authority, Humboldt County is home to around 136,000 people and is located in a region of the state with a long history of strong earthquakes, including ones of magnitude 7.0 in 1980 and 6.8 in 2014.

A Ferndale resident named Caroline Titus shared a video of overturned furniture and broken dishes in her pitch-black home.

“A 140-year-old Victorian built our house. In what dropped, the shaking from north to south is really noticeable “Tweeted she.

Larkin O’Leary, 41, of Santa Rosa made the trip to Ferndale to spend her anniversary with her husband after being shaken by an earthquake there the previous year. They made the decision to give it another shot and reserved the romance package at the same old historic inn.

O’Leary claimed that about 2:30 in the morning, she tried to fall back asleep after feeling uneasy.

She remarked, “I laid down again and it felt almost like someone leaped on the bed. “It was very horrifying. It trembled in a way I had never before felt. All around, there was up and down.”

The couple left Ferndale shortly and went back to their house.

O’Leary remarked, “Never again.

The Mendocino Triple Junction, where three tectonic plates converge, is where the earthquake struck.

According to Lori Dengler, retired professor of geology at Cal Poly Humboldt, “we’re in this period of geologic time where the most interesting, active area of California happens to be Humboldt County and the neighboring offshore area.”

After a significant earthquake, ambiguity over the extent of the damage is common, according to Dengler. She did, however, point out that a large portion of the region is rural and that wood frame construction is typical, which in the past has helped to limit damage.

The earthquake prompted a large response from the West Coast’s warning system, which may advise people to take safety steps in the seconds before significant shaking reaches them by detecting the beginning of an earthquake and sending warnings to smartphones in the impacted zone.

This image posted by Caltrans District 1 shows a road closure Tuesday on California State Route 211 at Fernbridge, a 1,320-foot-long concrete arch bridge that spans the Eel River near Fortuna, Calif., in Humboldt County. The bridge is closed while they conduct a safety inspection checking for possible seismic damage.
Caltrans District 1 via AP

Around 3 million people in Northern California received alerts from the system early on Tuesday, according to Ghilarducci. The system performed as expected, he said.

Only a few days prior, a smaller earthquake of magnitude 3.6 that woke up thousands of people early on Saturday morning and caused only minimal damage shook the San Francisco Bay Area.

The epicenter of that earthquake was at El Cerrito, which is roughly 16 miles (25 kilometers) from the heart of San Francisco.

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