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Thousands Without Power After 6.4 Earthquake in California

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A strong earthquake jolted residents awake in northern California early Tuesday, knocking out power to 70,000 people and damaging some buildings and a roadway. There were two reported injuries.

The magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck near Ferndale, a small town about 210 miles (345 kilometers) northwest of San Francisco and close to the Pacific coast, at 2:34 a.m. The epicenter was located about 10 miles offshore (16 kilometers). There were numerous aftershocks.

The Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services initially tweeted that there had been “widespread damage to roads and homes,” but authorities later indicated that the damage was less than what might be expected given the earthquake’s magnitude.

The region is located on California’s remote, far north coast and is home to redwood forests, mountains, a port, and a state university. Long before the state legalized marijuana, Humboldt County was part of the Emerald Triangle, a three-county region known for its clandestine cannabis production.

Two people were injured, but both were expected to recover, county sheriff’s information specialist Samantha Karges told The Associated Press in an email. According to Brian Ferguson, a California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services spokesperson, no fatalities were immediately reported.

There is “some damage” to buildings and infrastructure, and two hospitals in the area lost power and were running on generators, he said, but the scale of the damage appeared to be “minimal” compared to the magnitude of the quake. He also stated that there was a report of a gas leak.

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Authorities in Ferndale closed an important bridge due to damage. The state highway department posted a photo of crumpled pavement on Twitter.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, who represents the area, said the small city of Rio Dell, which has a population of only a few thousand people, took the brunt of the damage. McGuire was not in the area at the time of the earthquake, but he said he heard “violent,” sustained shaking.

According to McGuire, there was one confirmed structural fire, a few structures came off their foundations, and the municipal water system was damaged, but it was unclear if any homes or businesses lost access to water.

He estimated that 72,000 people lost power.

The power outage affected the main transmission line that runs into the region, and Pacific Gas & Electric’s restoration work was slowed because rain prevented the use of a helicopter to assess the damage, according to McGuire. The utility expected power to be restored by evening, but he said residents should be prepared to be without power for longer. The utility did not immediately respond to the outage.

According to the California Earthquake Authority, Humboldt County has approximately 136,000 residents and is located in a region with a long history of large earthquakes, including a magnitude of 7.0 in 1980 and a magnitude of 6.8 in 2014.

The city of Eureka, population 26,000, reported on its website that its communications center was receiving a high volume of calls, but “no significant damage” was immediately reported.

Dan Dixon, 40, of Eureka, said the earthquake jolted him and his wife awake and shook everything, knocking pictures on the floor. He claimed their infant daughter slept through it.

“It was probably the most violent earthquake we’ve felt in the 15 years I’ve lived here,” he said. “It physically moved our bed.”

Caroline Titus, a Ferndale resident, tweeted a video of toppled furniture and smashed dishes in her darkened home.

“Our house is a 140-year-old Victorian. “The north/south shaking is very visible in what fell,” she tweeted.

“That was a big one,” she said in another tweet.

The earthquake occurred at the Mendocino Triple Junction, where three tectonic plates collide.

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“We’re at a point in geologic time when the most exciting, dynamic area of California happens to be Humboldt County and the adjacent offshore area,” said Lori Dengler, professor emeritus of geology at Cal Poly Humboldt.

Dengler stated that it is normal for there to be uncertainty about damage following a large earthquake. However, she pointed out that much of the area is rural, and wood frame construction is common, which has helped limit damage in the past.

The quake triggered the West Coast’s warning system, which detects the start of a quake and sends alerts to cellphones in the affected area, giving people time to take safety precautions before strong shaking reaches them.

According to Ferguson, the Cal OES spokesperson, approximately 270,000 people received notifications early Tuesday.

The earthquake occurred just days after a small magnitude 3.6 earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area, waking thousands before 4 a.m. Saturday and causing minor damage.

That earthquake was centered in El Cerrito, about a 16-mile (25-kilometer) drive from downtown San Francisco.

Source: AP, VOR News

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