Dozens wounded as 6.0 quake rocks Napa Valley

Dozens wounded as 6.0 quake rocks Napa Valley

Dozens wounded as 6.0 quake rocks Napa Valley


by Elizabeth Weise, USATODAY

Posted on August 24, 2014 at 9:14 AM

Updated Sunday, Aug 24 at 9:14 AM

NAPA, Calif. — A magnitude-6.0 earthquake rattled through Northern California early Sunday morning, the strongest temblor to hit the Napa Valley area in nearly 25 years, leaving dozens wounded, thousands without power and countless buildings damaged.

The quake struck at 3:20 a.m. PT near American Canyon about 6 miles southwest of Napa, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. It's the largest quake since the Loma Prieta temblor in 1989.

Kelly Huston, a deputy director with the California Office of Emergency Services, said there were no reports of fatalities, but that as many as 70 people were taken to local hospitals. Most injuries, he anticipated, would be from falling objects and debris.

Huston said there were several active fires 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. "We're just starting to get daylight now."

Napa's local hospital, Queen of the Valley Medical Center, treated dozens of patients, including two with major injuries, Napa city officials said in a 6:30 a.m. PT briefing. The center is calling 10 other ambulances from surrounding areas into service. Three of the injuries are critical: one child injured by a falling chimney and two adults.

The earthquake destroyed four mobile homes and two others are on fire in the northern section of Napa, officials said in an update posted on the city's website.

There were no reported highway blockages, though Huston said there was a report of a buckled offramp on state Highway 72 at Sonoma.

In Napa, a picturesque town known for its lush vineyards, robust wines and rolling hills, the full extent of a magnitude-6.0 earthquake was becoming clear by Sunday morning.

Throughout the downtown area, there was no power. Alarms of all kinds — fire, burglar and car — were blaring.

Residents trickled into the five blocks that make up the historic downtown to see the damage. 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 is 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 have begun to cordon off sections of the downtown to keep crowds away from the debris.

The quake seriously damaged Napa infrastructure, including 50 gas-main breaks and 30 water-main breaks, officials said in an update posted on the city's website. Both of the city's water treatment plants are operating and water remains safe to drink, the officials said. The quake damaged at least three historic buildings, including the Sam Kee Laundry, the Goodman Library and the Napa County Courthouse.

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.

The state has not requested federal assistance, but was still evaluating the damage and would make a decision by mid-day about making any requests, Brad Alexander, chief of media relations for California Office of Emergency Services, said.

"The damages are still under assessment," Alexander said. "We are in coordination with every state agency. Our emergency operations center is fully activated."

Assessment crews are flying over the area in helicopters to get an overview of the damage, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state's emergency operations office.

"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," California Gov. Ed Brown 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."

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.