Napa, Calif., gets back to business after 6.0 quake

Napa, Calif., gets back to business after 6.0 quake

Napa, Calif., gets back to business after 6.0 quake

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by Elizabeth Weise and Jon Swartz, USA TODAY

KREM.com

Posted on August 25, 2014 at 6:28 AM

NAPA, Calif. — The heart of Northern California's wine country was getting back to business after a strong earthquake damaged buildings Sunday and made a mess of the historic downtown district.

Residents said they're doing what it takes to recover quickly as tourists resumed bicycle tours through streets of this picturesque area northeast of San Francisco, dodging debris and roped-off areas.

"We had a major cleanup job, and we had to get a battery from Sacramento, but we got it done, and we're pumping gas again," Lou Ishaq said at a service station he owns.

Residents were shaken awake by the magnitude-6.0 earthquake that hit around 3:20 a.m., the worst temblor to shake the Bay Area in 25 years. At least 172 people were treated for injuries at a hospital, and three were in critical condition. The quake, which is likely to produce dozens of aftershocks, could result in losses that top $100 million.

CLEANUP TIME

Wine and olive oil bottlers suffered damage. Hundreds of broken bottles littered the floor of Lucero Olive Oil, but owner David Gadlin said the store would reopen Monday as usual.

"A lot of downtown business owners will be back up and running," he said. "There's been financial hardship, but we'll get through it. Few people were hurt. That's what's important."

About 15 buildings were damaged too severely to allow people inside, and many more awaited further evaluation. Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, said 90 to 100 homes and buildings were deemed not habitable.

City and country fire crews worked overtime to restore services to residents. Schools were ordered closed Monday.

Bertha Flores, 40, was out buying ice to keep the food in her refrigerator cold as her family waited for the power to come back on.

Speaking in Spanish, she said the earthquake frightened her children, but everyone was OK except for some cuts from shattered glass.

"I'm a cleaner. I think there is going to be a lot of work for my company in the next couple of days,'' she said.

The quake — which occurred at a depth of 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 the U.S. Geological Survey, nearly 9 million people were exposed to varying levels of ground shaking.

In Napa, most of the damage was restricted to the older central downtown area.

"We're getting cancels from businesses that planned to do some work in the city," says Bret Cudd, co-partner of the Best Western Plus Inn at the Vines in Napa. Though 20 rooms were vacated early by customers — who were given refunds — the rooms were quickly snatched up by the city and a Los Angeles TV station.

"We had some lights knocked over, but the water and electricity are fine," Cudd said. "Downtown took the damage."

STATE OF EMERGENCY

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency because of damage in the Napa area.

Mike Parness, city manager, said 15 or 16 buildings in central downtown were "red tagged" after inspectors found damage left them too dangerous for people to enter.

"We've got a lot of workers out checking out homes and buildings,'' Parness said.

A 10-foot chunk of brick and concrete was shaken from the corner of the old County Courthouse building. Big pieces 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 USGS reported. It's the largest quake to hit the Napa Valley region near San Francisco since the Loma Prieta temblor in 1989.

At least three people were in critical condition from quake injuries. One of them, a child injured by a falling fireplace, was airlifted to the University of California-Davis hospital for surgery.

There were about 60 water main leaks.

CELLPHONE NETWORKS BUCKLE

After the initial shock wore off, an almost festive air prevailed in the city as tourists on rented bicycles rode through closed streets. So many people were sending photos from their mobile phones that cellular systems were overwhelmed.

At the Ranch Market, a grocery store in Napa, owner Beth Housley says she and her husband, Arik, are determined to reopen Monday.

"We had employees and family friends come and help clean up,'' she said. "It should be safe for customers.''

Newer homes and buildings away from the center of the city suffered less damage, but many were without power.

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 hospitals.

The CEO for Napa's Queen of the Valley Medical Center said the area's main hospital had treated 172 individuals since the earthquake hit. He couldn't determine whether all the injuries were earthquake-related, though typically, the emergency room handles about 85 a day. Thirteen patients were admitted and one was in critical condition, CEO Walt Mickens said. Most were treated for cuts and bruises, though some were treated for medical conditions that may have been worsened by the day's anxiety, he said.

"Now it appears we're treating people (injured while) cleaning up," hospital spokeswoman Vanessa deGier said Sunday afternoon.

MOBILE HOME FIRE

Six structure fires were reported, including one that destroyed four mobile homes, Napa Fire Chief John Callanan said.

At least 64,000 people lost power. In Napa, 20,786 homes and businesses 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 were without power; Santa Rosa, where 4,500 customers lost power; and Sonoma, where 3,900 customers lost power. By evening, the utility said service had been restored to all but about 7,000 customers.

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 known for its lush vineyards, robust wines and rolling hills.

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 and the Goodman Library — were damaged.

Douglas Edwards, 27, a 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 was scattered and file cabinets were upturned on the floor.

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.

It remains too early to provide a specific economic or insured loss estimate, according to Aon Benfield, a reinsurance firm. The USGS's automated economic loss software predicted that there was a 27% chance that economic losses would end up beyond $1 billion and a 35% chance that economic losses would top $100 million.

The USGS said the quake is likely to produce 30 to 70 small aftershocks of 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 the USGS. About five quakes of this magnitude or stronger hit the USA each year, many in or near Alaska.

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