Saturday 6.5er rocks and rolls the Richter – January 14, 2010

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

HUMBOLDT – A dreary winter’s day suddenly sprang into motion with an extended show of tectonic force at 4:27 p.m. last Saturday afternoon.

What the U.S. Geological Survey called nc71338066 took place 35 km west-northwest of Ferndale. The Richter 6.5 quake was an extraordinarily long-duration event, the motion mostly a rolling sensation with accompanying shudders and shocks, and the usual freight-train roar in the background.

Property damage in Arcata was relatively minor, given the length and amount of movement involved in the earthquake. Supermarkets were fragrant places to be, as aromas of wine, olives and salad dressing rose off the floor to commingle in a piquant pong.

But even at the Fire Arts Center, where hundreds of ceramic creations perch on shelves, relatively few had fallen off and broken.

In the aftermath of the quake, knots of neighbors clustered outside homes, comparing notes and relating stories.

Municipal facilities rode out the quake largely undamaged, according to Interim City Manager Randy Mendosa. A Sunday morning inspection turned up nothing much to report. “Arcata’s main problem was temporary power losses to water tanks and City Hall, which was covered by generators,” Mendosa said. “All looks well.”

“Everything was very calm,” said Sally Lindke of the Arcata Fire Protection District. “There were a couple of false alarms, but that was it.” Motion sensors are commonly bamboozled by quakes and storms.

Other communities were harder hit, both by the initial severity of the quake and the subsequent damage.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services reported Sunday that the City of Eureka sustained the largest amount of damage, with preliminary estimates at $12.5 million.  That amount is likely to rise. There were reports of only minor injuries, with one person admitted to the hospital for a broken bone. There are reports of structural damage to many buildings, to include downed chimneys, broken windows, cracked walls, fallen masonry and a few houses moved off foundations.

As recovery and cleanup efforts continue, the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services is encouraging the public to report damage they may have suffered as a result of Friday’s earthquake. In Arcata, call APD at (707) 822-2426

Reporting damage helps ensure that the County and local cities quantify damages that may be eligible for assistance from state and federal sources.

Stores bear the brunt

Arcata supermarkets seemed to be most heavily impacted by the rolling quake, with some grocery aisles turned into goopy minefields of broken jars and splattered contents.

At Murphy’s Sunny Brae Market, the wine section suffered multiple tragedies, while virtually every other aisle was impassable due to grocery wreckage. The store’s emergency generator provided electrical power during the subsequent four-hour outage.

“I love you!” said store employees Amanda Nilai and Amanda Sherrill, hugging each other in shock and relief. The two Amandas then set about cleaning up the widespread damage.

The North Coast Co-ops in Arcata and Eureka closed early after the quake shook both stores causing power failures and extensive product damage.

A video of the Arcata Co-op experiencing the quake is viewable at northcoastco-op.com.

“Everybody exited the building in an orderly manner and our staff did an excellent job getting everything picked up and ready for the cleaning crew to scrub any sticky bits of glass left on our floors,” said Arcata Co-op Store Manager Kelli Reese. “We felt it was important to then allow our employees to get home to check on their family, friends and animal companions.”

“I’ve never been so proud of the staff as I was yesterday, it was amazing to see,” said Vince Gaves-Blanford, Arcata Co-op assistant store manager. “Everyone pulled together to get everything done so that we could get our people home to check with their families.”

Up the hill, Wildberries Marketplace never lost power and re-opened in only 40 minutes, according to supervisor Don Husman. “We lost quite a bit of merchandise,” he said. “It took quite a while to clean up the floors to where they were safe to walk.” He said a lot of vinagrette salad dressing and oils were lost.

Patrons stayed cool, though. “I was really impressed with the customers,” Husman said. “They stayed calm and waited outside.”

HSU rode it out

Humboldt State University rode out the quake with negligible damage.

Spokesman Paul Mann said losses consisted of “a ceiling tile here or there, maybe a light fixture.” No structural damage or even broken windows were reported.

Trinidad tidings

Trinidad Police responded by restricting traffic to the local beach area, unsure if a tsunami would be generated by the significant quake.

After receiving the all-clear from county OES that a tsunami was not generated by a quake, traffic to homes and businesses was resumed.

The Trinidad Emergency Operations Center, which is located in the police facility was opened, injury and damage assessment was initiated.  Police emergency personnel, Trinidad Volunteer Fire Department, Cal-Fire and Trinidad residents who volunteered their time assisted in going door to door in checking residents in the city limits for injuries. Due to the high number of residents living off of propane systems, their  tanks were also checked for gas leaks to ensure no other hazards existed due to the severity of the earthquake.

At this time, there have been no reports of damage by residents or businesses.

On shaky ground

About 29,000 customers were temporarily without power in Humboldt County.

There were several gas line ruptures and water line interruptions throughout the county, with fire personnel responding to all reports. There were reports of some chimneys down, broken glass, light fixtures falling and downed trees and power lines.

Eleven residents of an apartment building on H Street in Eureka were helped with emergency shelter when they could not return to their homes following the earthquake. Red Cross Disaster Action Team members responded to the call for help, providing vouchers for lodging and food.

“One of the best resources for disaster preparedness is the new Living on Shaky Ground publication,” said Barbara Caldwell, executive director. “It’s available on-line at humboldt.edu/shakyground, or people can pick up a printed copy at the Red Cross office, 406 Eleventh Street, Eureka. The seven steps to preparedness are spelled out in an easy to use action plan. We hope everyone will take advantage of this excellent local source of information.”

Bingo blowout

The most grievous loss for many was cancellation of the Eureka Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s Beach Blanket Bingo event Saturday night at the Bayside Grange. It will be rescheduled.

About 29,000

“Humboldt County chapter volunteers are standing by, ready to help if we should need to open shelters or provide additional assistance,” she added.   “We never know when an earthquake or other disaster may strike so we offer training on a regular basis to keep our capabilities strong, just for this reason.”

Red Cross preparedness brochures are available at www.prepare.org.  Individuals interested in training can call the chapter office, (707) 443-4521, for schedules or visit www.humboldtredcross.org for more informatiom.

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