A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Napa Valley/Solano County region of Northern California on Sunday, August 24, damaging homes and local wineries and collapsing structures. Thousands as far as 200 miles from the American Canyon city epicenter have reportedly been affected.
The temblor shook at 3:20 am and lasted around 10-20 seconds, waking up families who clamored out of their beds and into the littered streets.
“It’s very devastating, you know,” Mary Payomo Barnachea, a Filipina Napa resident, told ABS-CBN News. “I’m just glad that no major buildings had fallen down. It looks like (the damage) is structural. But it looks like everybody will be able to rebuild again.”
The Sunday morning earthquake was stronger than typical San Francisco quakes, which occur more frequently and range in magnitude. It is also the strongest to hit the Bay Area in 25 years, since the 6.9 Loma Prieta quake in 1989, which collapsed a part of the Bay Bridge and killed over 60 people.
Several small aftershocks occurred, including a 3.3 Southern California quake that hit off the coast of San Pedro and Rancho Palos Verdes around 7:50pm.
In wake of the destruction, many homes, buildings, and businesses were evacuated and declared uninhabitable. Wineries around Napa Valley were also deeply affected — the costs of damage to lost barrels and broken bottles could exceed into the millions. An important county courthouse lost a portion of its roof, and historic buildings like the Goodman Library and Sam Kee Laundry were also badly damaged.
An estimated 70,000 lost power right after the quake hit, and gas leaks in multiple buildings sparked fires that were unable to be extinguished for some time, due to ruptured water mains. Fire Department Operations Chief John Callanan said that the city of Napa had nearly exhausted its own water resources trying to control several fires in the area. With the damaged main lines, Callanan reported, efforts to fight the blaze had been delayed.
At least 60 water mains ruptured, damaging several homes and injuring some residents. Local hospital Queen of the Valley Medical Center treated 172 patients for minor injuries; 12 were admitted for cuts, broken bones, and two heart attacks related to the earthquake. A young teenager was airlifted to UC Davis Children’s Hospital after being hit by flying debris; he is now in serious condition.
Napa Fire Capt. Doug Bridewell told the Associated Press, “There [are] collapses, fires…that’s the worst shaking I’ve ever been in.”
Gov. Jerry Brown has since declared a state of emergency for Napa and Solano Counties. Red Cross evacuation centers and various emergency shelters have been established throughout the region. Classes are cancelled until schools have been thoroughly examined. Federal officials are also keeping in close contact with local emergency responders.
In Vallejo, an area about 17 miles south of Napa and the largest city in Solano County, significant damage occurred to several old homes and a museum on Mare Island. An estimated 51,000 Filipinos reside in the downtown Vallejo-Fairfield metropolitan area. There were no reported injuries, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Inquirer.
Hazel Bell was resting in her Vallejo mobile home the morning of the quake, and recalls her furniture being thrown from the ground. She is grateful that nothing or no one else was hurt.
“I’m still thankful that nothing happened to me, that I’m still alive,” she said. “I’’m still in shock.”
Experts predict that a 5.0 magnitude tremor could once again hit the Bay Area within the next few days. The San Francisco Philippine Consulate has activated a 24-hour emergency hotline, and informs the public to be extremely cautious during quakes and aftershocks. Residents are asked to check their water heaters and homes for signs of a gas leak, and to prepare a disaster kit in the event of a natural disaster. Law enforcement officials have also asked individuals to avoid destruction zones.
During an earthquake, individuals are asked to keep calm, drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy table or piece of furniture (if none available, cover your head and face with your arms and crouch in an inside corner), hold on until the shaking stops, and DO NOT run out of the building. Once the earthquake stops, check for gas/electrical/water line damages and evacuate safely.
The 24-hour emergency hotline for the area is (415) 748-9888 (assistance to Nationals officer mobile phone), or (415) 269-2090 (duty officer mobile phone). The Philippine Consulate can also be reached at ATN@philippinessanfrancisco.org.
(With reports from Associated Press, USA Today, Inquirer, and ABS-CBN)
(LA Midweek August 27-29, 2014 Sec A pg. 1)