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Strong quake shakes Solano, Napa counties

APTOPIX California Earthquake

Nina Quidit cleans up the Dollar Plus and Party Supplies Store in American Canyon, Calif. after an earthquake on Sunday Aug. 24, 2014. Quidit and her husband were woken up in the early morning hours by the store's alarm company and immediately drove in to begin clean up. The 6.0-magnitude quake caused six significant fires, including at four mobile homes, Napa Division Fire Chief Darren Drake said. (AP Photo/Alex Washburn)

By
August 25, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — A strong earthquake roiled Solano County early Sunday, injuring dozens and leading to reports of massive power outages that extended to Vallejo and into Green Valley and Fairfield.

No fatalities were reported.

A preliminary 6.0 magnitude earthquake happened at 3:20 a.m., 4 miles northwest of American Canyon and 6 miles south-southwest of Napa, just over the county line in neighboring Napa County, the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park and the Northern California Seismic Center at the University of California, Berkeley reports. The quake occurred at a depth of 6.7 miles.

It’s the largest earthquake to hit the Bay Area since the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta quake in 1989, the USGS reports.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency shortly before 9:30 a.m. for what the U.S. Geological Survey named the South Napa Earthquake.

Several aftershocks have shaken the region since, the U.S. Geological Survey reports, including a 2.5 magnitude temblor at 5:01 a.m. followed by a 3.6 magnitude quake at 5:47 a.m., and quakes of 2.5 magnitude at 7 a.m., 2.8 magnitude at 7:54 a.m. and 2.6 magnitude at 8:10 a.m.

Officials shortly before 6 a.m. were still working to determine the fault along which the 6.0 magnitude quake occurred, although the Browns Valley section of the West Napa fault was suspected, the U.S. Geological Survey posted on Twitter.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. received reports minutes after the initial earthquake of outages across the region that left more than 70,660 customers in the dark, including 3,552 in Vallejo, 26 in Green Valley and four in Fairfield. The Vallejo outages were mostly resolved within a couple of hours.

More than 17,000 customers were still without power early Sunday afternoon, the vast majority – 14,607 – in and around Napa. PG&E spokesman J.D. Guidi told The Associated Press that crews were working to make repairs, but it’s unclear when electricity would be restored.

A NorthBay Healthcare official reported shortly after the quake that both hospitals – NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield and VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville – were not damaged by the earthquake, but that engineers were going to confirm those initial assessments.

Significant damage was reported across the region.

The California Highway Patrol reported shortly before 4:30 a.m. that Highway 37 at Sonoma Boulevard in Vallejo required closer inspection after the earthquake, and that drivers should expect delays in the area. The westbound connector from Interstate 80 to Highway 37 was later closed from I-80 to Highway 29 due to possible earthquake damage, according to the Coastal Transportation Management Center.

The connector reopened at approximately 6:20 a.m.

Vallejo’s city manager declared a state of emergency in the city as a result of the damage there that included 16 confirmed water main breaks. A stretch of Nimitz Avenue was closed through the morning as a result of the earthquake.

The CHP reported shortly before 10:30 a.m. that its personnel had inspected all area roadways, overcrossings and bridges within the CHP’s area of jurisdiction and found damage at Highway 121 at Highway 29, Highway 29 at Cuttings Wharf, Old Sonoma Road between Congress Valley Road and Buhman Road, all in or near Napa; and Petrified Forest Road at Saxton Road outside of Calistoga.

Heavy structural damage and a half-dozen fires were reported in Napa in the quake’s immediate aftermath. Some building damage was also reported in Vallejo.

“A quake of that size in a populated area is of course widely felt throughout that region,” Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado, told The Associated Press.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the earthquake, the White House said. Federal officials also have been in touch with state and local emergency responders. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for southern Napa County, directing state agencies to respond with equipment and personnel.

Napa Fire Department Operations Chief John Callanan said the city has exhausted its own resources trying to extinguish six fires, some in places with broken water mains; transporting injured residents; searching homes for anyone who might be trapped; and answering calls about gas leaks and downed power lines.

Two of the fires happened at mobile home parks, including one where four homes were destroyed and two others damaged, Callanan said.

The earthquake sent at least 87 people to Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, where officials set up a triage tent to handle the influx. Most patients had cuts, bumps, bruises, said Vanessa DeGier, hospital spokeswoman. She says the facility has treated a hip fracture and heart attack, but it’s unclear if it was related to the quake.

The child in critical condition was struck by part of a fireplace and had to be airlifted to a specialty hospital for a neurological evaluation, Callanan said.

In Napa, at least three historic buildings were damaged, including the county courthouse, and at least two downtown commercial buildings have been severely damaged. A Red Cross evacuation center was set up at a high school, The Associated Press reports, then at a church, the state Office of Emergency Services reports. The Red Cross set up an emergency shelter in Vallejo at the Florence Douglas Senior Center on Amador Street.

“There’s collapses, fires,” said Napa Fire Capt. Doug Bridewell, standing in front of large pieces of masonry that broke loose from a turn of the century office building where a fire had just been extinguished. “That’s the worst shaking I’ve ever been in.”

Bridewell said he had to climb over fallen furniture in his own home to check on his family before reporting to duty.

The shaking emptied cabinets in homes and store shelves, set off car alarms and had residents of neighboring Sonoma County running out of their houses and talking about damage inside their homes.

The Solano County Sheriff’s Office and the Office of Emergency Services spent the morning inspecting such areas as local dams and waterways, radio and cellular towers, levees, roads, railroad tracks and bridges. No significant damage had been found as of 11:10 a.m. The county’s emergency services agencies also sent resources to Napa.

Solano County, like Napa County, is prone to seismic activity. The Concord-Green Valley fault is perhaps Solano County’s most noteworthy earthquake zone. There’s a 4 percent chance it could generate a 6.7 magnitude or greater earthquake in the next 20 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The last monster quake on the Concord-Green Valley fault occurred between 200 and 500 years ago, a U.S. Geological Survey report said.

Solano County’s other seismic faults include the Cordelia fault near Rockville, the Kirby Hill and Montezuma Hills faults near the Montezuma Hills and the Vaca fault near Vacaville.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Glen Faison at 427-6925 or gfaison@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.

This version corrects the time frame in which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that a major earthquake could occur along the Concord-Green Valley fault.

Glen Faison

Glen Faison

Glen Faison joined the Daily Republic as managing editor in September 2009. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in the San Joaquin Valley for 20-plus years. His experience includes time as editor of the Golden Eagle, a military paper serving the Lemoore Naval Air Station. He graduated from Fresno State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and bleeds Bulldogs red. He is an avid Washington Redskins fan, and attended the 1988 NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings at RFK Stadium. He married his wife, Jill, in 2005, and has three children: Courtni, Tyler and Hayli.
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