2 dead, 12 injured after magnitude 6.4 earthquake hits Northern California

At least two people died and 12 were injured after a magnitude-6.4 earthquake hit Northern California on Tuesday, local authorities said.

The quake, the strongest quake the area has seen in years, also damaged infrastructure and cut power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses around Humboldt County, about 250 miles north of San Francisco.

The Humboldt District from the sheriff office said two people “died due to medical emergencies during and/or just after the earthquake.”

Tuesday’s fatalities mark the first deaths from an earthquake in California since one person died in 2019 during a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck the town of Ridgecrest in California’s northern Mojave Desert region at shook its foundations.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at 2:34 a.m. PT in Pacific Ocean waters about 7½ miles west of Ferndale at a depth of just over 16 miles. The city is about 19 miles south of Eureka, near the California-Oregon state line.

State officials said they closed a bridge to Ferndale that was damaged.

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 magnitude 4.

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Two of the dead were elderly residents

The two area residents whose deaths were related 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 “their medical emergency occurred at the time of the earthquake and EMS could not get there in time to get them to the correct 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 east 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’s emergency services agency.

Roads, homes damaged around Humboldt County, California

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office announced reports of damage to homes and roads throughout the county, which has a population of approximately 136,000.

Officials identified one bridge, the Fernbridge, connecting Ferndale to US 101, which sustained enough damage to cause a closure, said Tony Tavares, director of the state transportation agency.

Besides Ferndale, most of the destruction occurred in Rio Dell, Fortuna and Scotia in the Eel River Valley, state officials said.

  • Fifteen homes were deemed unsafe to live in in Rio Dell, according to Rio Dell City Manager Kyle Knopp, displacing about 30 residents.

  • About half of Rio Dell’s homes have been assessed for damage, Knopp said, and the number of displaced residents could reach 100 or more by the time they’re finished.

  • Rio Dell officials also worked to restore running water as the quake damaged the city’s water infrastructure, Knopp said.

Ghilarducci said at least one fire was reported, along with two homes that were “knocked off their foundations” or partially collapsed.

Scenes of damage from Diana McIntosh of Humboldt County after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck Northern California on Tuesday, December 20, 2022.

Scenes of damage from Diana McIntosh of Humboldt County after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck Northern California on Tuesday, December 20, 2022.

More than 50,000 people are still in the dark

In the hours immediately following the quake, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. tens of thousands of customers without power in the area. By mid-afternoon, more than 57,000 people were in the dark.

PG&E spokesperson Mayra Tostado told the US TODAY that the utility has kicked off its contingency plan and crews were responding to gas and electrical hazards in Humboldt County.

“Our assessment may take several days,” Tostado said. “All customers are urged to exercise extreme caution around heavily damaged buildings.”

Scenes of damage from Diana McIntosh of Humboldt County after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck Northern California on Tuesday, December 20, 2022.

Scenes of damage from Diana McIntosh of Humboldt County after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck Northern California on Tuesday, December 20, 2022.

‘I’ve never felt anything like this in my life’

Diana McIntosh, 69, said the quake woke her up in 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 banging, things crashing, and glass shattering,” says McIntosh, who lives alone in her Pacific highway apartment.

McIntosh, who said she’s lived in the Eureka area for 65 years, called it the biggest earthquake she’s ever experienced.

“I was screaming,” she said. “The way it shook…I’ve never felt anything like it in my life.”

McIntosh said her home, where some furniture was not anchored to the walls, suffered damage.

“My water is brown. There’s no electricity. It’s 60 degrees in my apartment and it’s dropping,” she said.

A photo posted online by the California Department of Transportation showed State Route 211, which connects Ferndale to US 101, buckled by the quake. The Ferndale Fire Department reported that 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 highway that stretches from Los Angeles to Washington state.

Another resident of the area, Caroline Titus of Ferndale, posted on Twitter: “The shaking between north and south is very evident in what fell. This was our coffee station. Sorry about the dark video. Power is still out.”

Earthquake among strongest in recent memory

Tuesday 6.4 magnitude earthquake could be the most significant to hit California since July 2019, when a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the Ridgecrest area of ​​Southern California, according to the State Department of Conservation. In 2016, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake was recorded about 100 miles offshore near Ferndale.

In Northern California, the last notable earthquake 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 thousands of people at 3:39 a.m. 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 quake started about 15 miles below the surface, with the epicenter about 4 miles east of the mouth of College Fiord and 75 miles east of Anchorage.

It was also the second largest earthquake on record, next to the magnitude 9.5 earthquake in Chile in 1960.

Contributions: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 6.4 magnitude earthquake hits California; power cuts above 71,000

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