At least two people died and 12 were injured after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck northern California early Tuesday, local authorities said.
The quake, the strongest earthquake the region has seen in years, also damaged infrastructure and cut power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses in Humboldt County, about 250 miles north of San Francisco.
Humboldt County sheriffs The bureau said two people “died as a result of medical emergencies that arose during and/or shortly after the earthquake.”
Tuesday’s deaths mark the first deaths from an earthquake in California since one person died in a 7.1 magnitude quake that struck the town of Ridgecrest in California’s northern Mojave Desert region in 2019.
The quake struck at 2:34 a.m. PT in the waters of the Pacific Ocean about 7½ miles west of Ferndale at a depth of just over 16 miles, according to the US Geological Survey. The city is about 19 miles south of Eureka, near the California-Oregon state line.
State officials said they closed a damaged bridge to Ferndale.
The USGS warned of “many” aftershocks, including some that could reach magnitude 4. More than two dozen aftershocks were recorded on the USGS website, most of which were less than 4.
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Two deaths were elderly residents
The two residents whose deaths were linked to Tuesday morning’s quake were 72 and 83 years old, according to Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal.
Honsal said the deaths likely occurred because “her medical emergency occurred at the moment of the earthquake and the EMS could not get there in time to take her to the proper medical facility.”
One death occurred in Rio Dell and the location of the other death was still unclear, Honsal said.
A total of 12 people have reported injuries so far, and the number is expected to rise, Honsal said.
How far was the earthquake felt?
The quake was felt as far south as Redding, California, about 160 miles east of Ferndale, and as far south as the Bay Area, according to Mark Ghilarducci, director of the State Emergency Medical Services.
Roads, homes damaged around Humboldt County, California
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office issued reports of damage to homes and roads throughout the county, which is home to about 136,000 people.
Officials identified a bridge, the Fernbridge, which connects Ferndale to US 101, which state transportation agency director Tony Tavares said was so badly damaged it had to be closed.
Besides Ferndale, most of the destruction took place in Rio Dell, Fortuna and Scotia in the Eel River Valley, state officials said.
- According to Rio Dell city manager Kyle Knopp, 15 homes in Rio Dell were deemed unsafe, which displaced about 30 residents.
- About half of the homes in Rio Dell have been inspected for damage, Knopp said, and the number of displaced people could reach 100 or more by the end.
- Rio Dell officials were also working to restore running water as the tremors damaged the city’s water infrastructure, Knopp said.
Ghilarducci said at least one building fire had been reported, along with two homes “torn from their foundations” or partially collapsed.
More than 50,000 people are groping in the dark
In the hours immediately after the quake, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. reported tens of thousands of customers without power in the area. By the afternoon, more than 57,000 people remained in the dark.
PG&E spokeswoman Mayra Tostado told USA TODAY that the utility had initiated its contingency plan and that crews were responding to gas and electricity hazards in Humboldt County.
“Our assessment could take several days,” Tostado said. “All customers are urged to exercise extreme caution in the vicinity of severely damaged buildings.”
“I’ve never felt anything like this in my life”
Diana McIntosh, 69, said the shaking woke her up at her home in an apartment complex in central Humboldt County.
“It felt like North and South were rocking back and forth and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. I heard pops, things smashed, and broken glass,” said McIntosh, who lives alone in her apartment on the freeway near the Pacific Ocean.
McIntosh, who said she has lived in the Eureka region for 65 years, called it the largest earthquake she has ever experienced.
“I screamed,” she said. “The way it was shaking… I’ve never felt anything like that in my life.”
McIntosh said her home, where some furniture was not anchored to the walls, suffered damage.
“My water is brown. There is no electricity. It’s 60 degrees in my apartment and falling,” she said.
A photo posted online by the California Department of Transportation showed State Route 211 connecting Ferndale to US 101, which was buckled by the quake. The Ferndale Fire Department reported other roads in the area were also closed due to damage, including Blue Slide Road, which runs parallel to US 101, a major north-south freeway stretching from Los Angeles into Washington state.
Another resident, Caroline Titus of Ferndale, posted on Twitter: “The north-south shaking is very evident in what has fallen. That was our coffee station. Sorry for the dark video.
Earthquakes among the strongest in recent memory
Tuesday’s 6.4-magnitude earthquake could be the most significant to hit California since July 2019, when a 7.1-magnitude quake struck the Ridgecrest area of southern California, according to the state Department of Conservation. A magnitude 6.5 quake was recorded about 100 miles offshore near Ferndale in 2016.
In Northern California, the last notable tremor was a magnitude 6.2 quake that struck offshore in the Cape Mendocino area in December 2021.
Tuesday’s quake came just days after a 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.
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What was the largest earthquake in US history?
The largest earthquake in modern history occurred on March 27, 1964, when a magnitude 9.2 earthquake struck the Prince William Sound region of Alaska.
According to the USGS, the tremor began about 15½ miles below the surface, with its epicenter about 6 miles east of the mouth of College Fjord and 75 miles east of Anchorage.
It was also the second largest earthquake ever recorded, next to the 9.5 magnitude earthquake in Chile in 1960.
Contribution: The Associated Press
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