© 2024 New Hampshire Public Radio

Persons with disabilities who need assistance accessing NHPR's FCC public files, please contact us at publicfile@nhpr.org.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Purchase your tickets for a chance to win $35k toward a new car or $25k in cash during NHPR's Summer Raffle!

Strongest Earthquake In 25 Years Hits Napa Valley


California's Napa Valley region is recovering from the strongest earthquake to strike that region in 25 years. It was a magnitude of 6.0, strong enough to knock many buildings off their foundations, also strong enough to knock many bottles of wine out of their racks. No one was killed, but more than 170 people were injured and many have cleaning up to do. NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: The quake struck at 3:20 in the morning. In downtown, older buildings with brick facades saw their exterior walls collapse. Plate glass windows shattered. In residential neighborhoods, chimneys toppled and the power went out. Just a few hours later, Mike DeSimoni came downtown with his flatbed truck piled high with plywood for shop owners who might need to board up their store fronts. He says it was a good thing that the quake didn't strike during the day.

MIKE DESIMONI: You know, I was looking out the window and you could see all the - it looked like a lightning show. All of the transformers were blowing up. You could see them just kind of going in unison through the Valley. And then there was - what was really scary, you could just hear the roar. It sounded like a train going by and just kind of continuing down the road there. That's what was really scary, just - it's like a big crack of thunder, but it just kept rolling.

GONZALES: Nearby shop owner Christie Beeman was standing amid the debris and broken glass and mirrors in her salon. The floor was slick from broken bottles of lotion.

CHRISTIE BEEMAN: Looks like mostly merchandise that's been damaged. Looks structurally - everything - like I said, we just got here. So structurally everything looks intact, which is good.

GONZALES: What was your reaction when you first saw this?

BEEMAN: Oh my God (laughter) what a mess. So yeah. But glad everybody's OK. And, I mean, that's what you can hope, everybody is OK.

GONZALES: That was a common sentiment in Napa - it could have been worse. In fact, authorities say of the 172 people who went to the hospital seeking treatment, only 13 were actually admitted. And most of those were for broken bones - hips mostly - and heart attacks. Walt Mickens is the president of the Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

WALT MICKENS: In the morning, the most common thing we saw were cut feet - people walking on broken glass, we saw a lot of folks who had furniture come down on them - a mirror came off the wall.

GONZALES: Mickens said most people were treated for cuts and bruises and then released home. Perhaps the most serious injury was suffered by a 13-year-old boy who sustained head injuries when a chimney fell on him. He was airlifted to the UC Davis Medical Center. California governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, rushing state resources not only to Napa County, but also neighboring Solano and Sonoma counties. Together, the three counties represent the heart of Northern California's robust wine industry. Many wineries were closed on what would have been a prime day for hosting wine tasting tourists. And in some areas food was hard to come by. Lewis Chilton is owner of the Yountville Deli and vice-mayor of Yountville, a small town just north of Napa. It escaped the brunt of the earthquake. But shortly after midday, Chilton was forced to close his deli when he ran out of food, pastries and coffee.

LEWIS CHILTON: 99.8 percent of people were great. A couple of people walked in and said why don't you have anything? We were like, you know, well, you know, we explained it. And they're like well, I don't understand. Didn't you hear about the earthquake?

GONZALES: It is likely to be several days, if not weeks, for life to return to normal here in Napa. More than two dozen structures were red tagged, judged to be too dangerous for anyone to enter. And officials are warning residence that aftershocks from the quake could cause more trouble. Some estimates put the damage of the earthquake at around $1 billion. Richard Gonzales, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.