An earthquake of 6.0 magnitude, the largest in the region for 25 years, shook the San Francisco Bay Area early on Sunday, sending scores to hospitals, igniting fires, damaging historic buildings and knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses in California's wine country.
The earthquake struck at 3:20 a.m. about 10 miles northwest of American Canyon, which is about 6 miles southwest of Napa, in California wine country, Leslie Gordon of the U.S. Geological Survey said. It's the largest earthquake to shake the Bay Area since the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta quake in 1989, the USGS said. The city of Napa is about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, in an area that produces some of the state's, and the world's, best wines.
The quake ruptured water mains and gas lines and damaged some of the region's famed wineries, sending residents running out of their homes in the dark. Three people — two adults and a child — were critically injured. U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, who represents Napa, said federal and state officials had conducted an aerial survey of the area, but they wouldn't have a cost estimate for the damage until they can get on the ground and into buildings.
Imediately after the quake, dazed residents too fearful of aftershocks to go back to bed wandered through Napa's historic downtown, where the quake caused a 10-foot chunk of bricks and concrete to shear off from the corner of an old county courthouse. Boulder-sized pieces of rubble littered the lawn and street in front of the building and the hole left behind allowed a view of the offices inside.
College student Eduardo Rivera said the home he shares with six relatives shook so violently that he kept getting knocked back into his bed as he tried to flee.
"When I woke up, my mom was screaming, and the sound from the earthquake was greater than my mom's screams," the 20-year-old Rivera said.
While inspecting the shattered glass at her husband's storefront office in downtown Napa, Chris Malloy described calling for her two children in the dark as the quake rumbled under the family's home, tossing heavy pieces of furniture for several feet.
"It was shaking and I was crawling on my hands and knees in the dark, looking for them," the 45-year-old woman said, wearing flip flops on feet left bloodied from crawling through broken glass.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for southern Napa County, directing state agencies to respond with equipment and personnel. President Barack Obama was briefed on the earthquake, the White House said, and federal officials were in touch with state and local emergency responders.
Thirty-three buildings, including the Napa Senior Center, have been tagged as uninhabitable.
Napa Fire Department Operations Chief John Callanan said the city had exhausted its own resources trying to extinguish at least six fires after 60 water mains ruptured, as well as transporting injured residents, searching homes for anyone trapped and responding to reports of 50 gas leaks.
Two of the fires erupted at mobile home parks, including one where four homes were destroyed and two others damaged, Callanan said. A ruptured water main there delayed efforts to fight the blaze until pumper trucks could be brought in, he said.
Nola Rawlins, 83, was one of the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park residents left homeless by the fire. Rawlins said she was awakened by an explosion after the quake and managed to escape unharmed, but lost all her belongings.
"There were some explosions and it was burning. Everybody was out in the street," she said. "I couldn't get back in the house because they told everybody to go down to the clubhouse, so I didn't get anything out of the house."
The earthquake sent at least 125 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 and bruises suffered either in the quake, when they tried to flee their homes or while cleaning up, hospital CEO Walt Mickens said. Three people were admitted with broken bones and two for heart attacks. Eight people were treated at St. Helena Hospital in the nearby city of St. Helena.
The child in critical condition was struck by flying debris from a collapsed fireplace and was airlifted to the children's hospital at the University of California Davis for a neurological evaluation, Callanan said.
Sunday's quake was felt widely throughout the region, with people reporting feeling it more than 200 miles south of Napa and as far east as the Nevada border. Amtrak suspended its train service through the Bay Area so tracks could be inspected.
A Red Cross evacuation center was set up at a Napa church, and crews were assessing damage to homes, bridges and roadways. The Napa Unified School District said classes were canceled for students Monday.
"There's collapses, fires," said Napa Fire Capt. Doug Bridewell, standing in front of large pieces of masonry that broke loose from an early 20th-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.
Napa City Manager Mike Parness said it could take a full week before the city was fully restored.
"We’re seeing people coming together and helping people and getting buildings back on line as soon as possible," Parness told a midday news conference.
Pacific Gas and Electric spokesman J.D. Guidi said close to 30,000 lost power right after the quake hit. That number was down to between 11,000 and 15,000 on Sunday evening, most of them in Napa. The utility expects to have power restored to all customers by early Monday afternoon.
The depth of the earthquake was just under seven miles, and was followed by numerous small aftershocks, the USGS said.
"A quake of that size in a populated area is of course widely felt throughout that region," said Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado.
California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Bartlett said cracks and damage to pavement closed the westbound Interstate 80 connector to westbound State Route 37 in Vallejo and westbound State Route 37 at the Sonoma off ramp. He said there hadn't been reports of injuries or people stranded in their cars, but there were numerous cases of flat tires from motorists driving over damaged roads.
The earthquake couldn't have come at a worse time for the region known for its vineyards. Growers have just started harvesting the 2014 crop.
"It's devastating. I've never seen anything like this," said Tom Montgomery, a winemaker for B.R. Cohn Winery in Glen Ellen, California.
B.R. Cohn lost "as much as 50 percent" of its wine, Montgomery said. The winery focuses on high-end, single estate wines that retail between $40 and $100 a bottle.
"It's not just good wine we lost, it's our best wine," he said.
At Dahl Vineyards in Yountville, California, a rack full of wine barrels was teetering and in danger of coming down. One barrel containing $16,000 worth of pinot noir fell and was lost as a result of the quake. The owners were trying to save the rest, removing the barrels with a forklift. Elsewhere in the region, red wine stains were visible outside the doors of a warehouse -- indicating there was damage inside.
Even the wine in barrels that wasn't damaged by the quake may have problems, however, because wines aging in barrels are supposed to be kept as still as possible, Montgomery said.
Napa is California's best-known winemaking region. While it produces only 4 percent of California's total wine crop, Napa's wines are considered among the best in the world and sell for a premium price. The Napa Valley does $50 billion in economic activity a year, or roughly a quarter of wine industry for the entire U.S., according to Napa Valley Vinters.