California Earthquake: Three Critically Injured As Governor Declares Emergency

At least 87 people were taken to hospital in Napa and three people, two adults and a young child, were critically injured.

Photo Credit: Crystal Eye Studio/Shutterstock.com

Governor Jerry Brown on Sunday declared a state of emergency for the part of California’s wine country hard-hit by an earthquake that struck at 3:30am.

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The governor issued a proclamation directing state agencies to help respond to the 6.0-magnitude quake that struck about six miles from the city of Napa. At least 87 people were taken to hospital in Napa and three people, two adults and a young child, were critically injured.

Napa fire operations chief John Callanan told the Associated Press the child was struck by part of a fireplace and airlifted to a specialty hospital for a neurological evaluation.

The earthquake struck about 10 miles northwest of American Canyon, which is about six miles southwest of Napa in California wine country, said Leslie Gordon of the US Geological Survey. It was the largest earthquake to shake the Bay Area since the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta quake in 1989, the USGS said.

“This was a pretty big jolt in Napa, but it certainly is not the Big One,” Barry Martin, Napa’s community outreach co-ordinator, said in comments to local television, referring to fears Californians have of a catastrophic quake along one of the seismic faults beneath the state. California is forecast to experience a much more powerful earthquake at some point, but scientists do not know exactly when it will come or how strong it will be, USGS geophysicist Don Blakeman said.

“Usually when people talk about the Big One, they’re talking about something on the order of a magnitude 9, which of course is tremendously more powerful” than Sunday’s quake, Blakeman said.

Callanan said Napa exhausted its resources extinguishing six fires, transporting injured residents, searching homes for residents who might be trapped and answering calls about gas leaks, water main breaks and downed power lines. Inspectors were evaluating damaged buildings, bridges and roads. Power to tens of thousands of homes was knocked out.

Most patients taken to the Queen of the Valley hospital in Napa had cuts, bumps, bruises, said spokeswoman Vanessa DeGier. She said the facility treated a hip fracture and a heart attack, but it was unclear if they were related to the quake. The hospital set up a triage tent, DeGier said.

The Napa city government reported four mobile homes destroyed and two on fire in the northern part of the city, as well as 50 gas main breaks, 30 water main leaks and damage to historic buildings as well as commercial properties. Napa fire chief Darren Drake said the quake caused six significant fires.

Unreinforced masonry buildings in downtown Napa including the historic courthouse and library suffered major damage, city officials said.

“There’s collapses, fires,” said Napa fire captain Doug Bridewell, standing in front of large pieces of masonry from a turn-of-the-century office building where a fire had just been extinguished. “That’s the worst shaking I’ve ever been in.”

Bridewell said he had to climb over fallen furniture in his home to check on his family before reporting for duty.

“Everything was just shaking, the hanging lamps waving back and forth,” said Omar Lopez, 24, a night clerk at a small inn in St. Helena, just north of Napa. “Guests came into the front desk after the quake and they said the swimming pool looked like a bunch of people had jumped in at the same time.”

“Oh, I felt it. When I woke up I was lying on the floor. It kicked me out of bed,” said Keith, who lives in Napa and asked to be identified only by his first name. He said he went right into his job at the front desk of a Napa hotel, leaving his house in disorder.

“The house is a mess, everything is out of the cabinets in the kitchen. Dressers tipped over.”

The shaking, which was felt over a wide area, emptied cabinets in homes and store shelves, set off car alarms and had residents of neighboring Sonoma County running out of their houses. Officials said widespread power outages had been reported.

“It was a rolling quake, said Oakland resident Rich Lieberman. “It started very much like a rolling sensation and just got progressively worse in terms of length. Not so much in terms of shaking, but it did shake. It felt like a side-to-side kind of rolling sensation. Nothing violent but extremely lengthy and extremely active.”

“It was long. I think it was the biggest one since I felt since I felt the 1989 quake,” said Stephanie Martin, 47, a nursing assistant in Oakland. “Nothing tipped over, thank God. Rolling back and forth. Just woke us all up.”

The USGS said the depth of the earthquake was just less than seven miles, and numerous small aftershocks occurred in the Napa wine country.

“A quake of that size in a populated area is of course widely felt throughout that region,” said Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with the USGS in Golden, Colorado. “The 6.0 is a sizeable quake for this area. It’s a shallow quake. It’s about six miles deep. We received hundreds of reports on our website from people who felt it in the surrounding area.”

Aftershocks can continue for the next several weeks and experts will watch their distribution to determine if this quake happened on a fault line, Baldwin said.