A powerful earthquake struck a rural part of Northern California early Tuesday, knocking out power to 70,000 people and damaging buildings and a highway, authorities said. There are two injured.
The magnitude 6.4 quake struck at 2:34 a.m. near Ferndale, a community about 345 kilometers northwest of San Francisco and close to the Pacific coast. The epicenter was near the coast at a depth of about 16 kilometers. Numerous aftershocks followed, some being felt in San Francisco.
The Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services tweeted that there were reports of “widespread damage to roads and homes,” but officials later said it was less than would be expected given the size of the quake.
The region, inserted in the San Francisco fault, where specialists say the “Big One” can occur, the expected and mythical great tremor, is part of the sparsely populated north coast of California, home to forests of redwoodsmountains, a port and a state university.
Long before the state legalized cannabis, Humboldt was part of the “Emerald Triangle,” three counties where clandestine cannabis production was legendary.
Two injuries were reported, but no deaths, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the California governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
There is “some damage” to buildings and infrastructure. Two area hospitals were without power and were running on generators. But the scale of the damage appears to be “minimal” compared to the force of the quake, he said. In addition, several gas leaks were recorded.
Authorities closed a major bridge in Ferndale that was showing damage. The state highway department tweeted a photo of the crumpled pavement.
State Sen. Mike McGuire said the small town of Rio Dell, home to a few thousand people, suffered most of the damage. McGuire was not in the area at the time of the earthquake, but received reports of sustained and “violent” shaking, he said.
There was a confirmed fire. Some structures fell off their foundations and the municipal water system was damaged, but it was unclear if any homes or businesses lost access to water, McGuire said.
The power outage involved the main transmission line serving the region and restoration work by Pacific Gas & Electric was delayed because rain prevented the use of a helicopter to assess the damage, McGuire said.
Humboldt County has about 136,000 residents and is in a part of the state with a long history of major earthquakes, including a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in 1980 and a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in 2014, according to the California Earthquake Authority.
The quake triggered the West Coast Alert System, which detects the start of a quake and sends alerts to cell phones in the affected region so they can alert people to take safety precautions before strong tremors hit. .
The incident came just days after a small 3.6 magnitude earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay area, waking thousands of people before 4 a.m. Saturday and causing minor damage.
That earthquake had its epicenter in El Cerrito, about 25 kilometers from downtown San Francisco.