At Least 2 Killed After 6.4 Earthquake Rocks Northern California

Building inspector Kevin Caldwell, red tags a home in Rio Dell. (Source: Associated Press)
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CBS- A magnitude 6.4 earthquake shook parts of Northern California early Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, killing at least two people, leaving tens of thousands without power, and causing significant damage to roads and buildings.

Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said that the sheriff’s office initial assessment is that 12 people were injured in the earthquake, which occurred at about 2:34 a.m. near Ferndale, a small community about 213 miles northwest of San Francisco, but that officials expect that number to rise.

Honsal confirmed that the two deceased victims, ages 83 and 72, were residents who suffered medical emergencies at the same moment of the earthquake, and emergency personnel did not reach them in time.

 

More than 70,000 customers in the area were without power as of Tuesday afternoon, the sheriff’s office said. The quake also damaged roads and buildings across Humboldt County, which is located northeast of Ferndale, according to the municipality’s emergency services personnel. The sheriff’s office on Tuesday evening also declared a local emergency that will allow Humboldt County to receive state and federal emergency funds.

Kyle Knopp, city manager for the Humboldt County town of Rio Dell, said officials had “red tagged” 15 homes as not being suitable for occupation, and “yellow tagged” 18 homes for having non-life threatening conditions.

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Road and bridge damage is seen in Humboldt County, California, following an earthquake on Dec. 20, 2022. Caltrans

Knoll said he estimates the earthquake displaced 30 people, but most have been able to stay with friends and family.

The earthquake also caused serious damage to Rio Dell’s water system. As of Tuesday evening, there was no running water or flushing toilets in Rio Dell. Knopp estimated that the water system would be restored within 24 to 48 hours, but until then, officials were distributing water bottles, and portable toilets were available throughout the city.

The Rio Dell City Council was planning a disaster declaration for Wednesday afternoon. Honsal said that as of Tuesday afternoon, Rio Dell had experienced more than 50 after shocks after initial quake. The sheriff’s office advised local residents to brace for potential aftershocks — which are common after a significant earthquake and can be “damaging or deadly” despite generally being smaller than the original, the U.S. Geological Survey says — and to check for possible gas and water leaks at home

Honsal said authorities are currently focusing on ensuring residents are safe.

“Our priority from the very beginning is life,” he said. “We are very worried about residents here in the county, so the first thing we are doing is checking on our residents and making sure that they are okay and providing their needs at this present time.”

The sheriff’s office confirmed that roads and homes in the Eel River Valley, just a few miles from Ferndale, were hit particularly hard by the quake.

“This is a Humboldt Alert,” the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services wrote on Twitter at around 5:30 a.m. local time, about three hours after the large quake. “Due to a large earthquake, widespread damage to roads and homes are reported throughout Humboldt County.”

“Be prepared for aftershocks,” the alert continued. “Check gas and water lines for damages or leaks. Exercise caution if traveling.”

People living in the area have been asked to report any gas leaks to PG&E, where they can also learn more about power restoration plans, the emergency services office said, adding that residents should direct questions about their water supply and related issues to the individual water districts that service their properties.

Prior to sharing the alert, the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services posted an initial tweet acknowledging the earthquake. At the time, it noted that “power is out across the county” and said the quake was not expected to produce a subsequent tsunami. According to USGS, it is unlikely that an earthquake with a magnitude that falls below 6.5 to trigger a tsunami.

“DO NOT CALL 911 UNLESS YOU ARE EXPERIENCING AN IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY,” the emergency services office wrote in its original tweet, which came at around 3 a.m. local time, shortly after the earthquake hit.

Local residents shared photos and videos showing damage from the quake, which shattered storefront windows and sent belongings in people’s homes smashing to the ground.

Caroline Titus posted a video of the damage in her living room, writing: “That was a big one. Power is now out in #ferndaleca. House is a mess.”

Paul Bugnacki also posted photos of damage at his home, adding, “Major quake in #humboldt just a bit ago. We’ve got some broken stuff but no major structural damage to the house. Power is out though.”

The owner of a local shop in Fortuna called Fortuna Fabrics & Crafts shared a video taken inside the store after the earthquake, which showed merchandise and broken glass scattered across the floor.

The California Highway Patrol reported the Fernbridge, a 1,320-foot-long concrete arch bridge that crosses the Eel River, has cracks in four places, CBS Bay Area reported. State Route 211 remained closed at Fernbridge in Humboldt County hours after the earthquake, as agents at the California Department of Transportation conducted inspections of the bridge. All other state highways within the departments District 1 boundaries were open, a representative from the agency confirmed.

The earthquake came just days after a small magnitude 3.6 earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area, waking up thousands of people at 3:39 a.m. Saturday and causing minor damage.

That earthquake was centered in El Cerrito, about a 16-mile drive to downtown San Francisco.

 

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