On the first day of the new year, a magnitude 5.4 earthquake struck Humboldt County, unsettling an area of Northern California that was beginning to heal from a catastrophic earthquake just before Christmas.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the epicenter of the earthquake that occurred on Sunday morning was around 26 miles away from Eureka and nine miles away from Rio Dell. This city was struck the most by the earthquake that occurred on December 20. The strong shaking started at 10:35 a.m. on Sunday, and residents said that it shook church services and New Year’s Day breakfasts.
Rio Dell is a timber town located 25 miles south of Eureka with around 3,500 people. Twelve days before the quake, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Rio Dell claimed two individuals’ lives, injured a dozen others, and caused severe damage. In that earthquake, dozens of buildings were damaged, and as a result, families were rendered homeless just in time for the holidays. Up until Wednesday of last week, residents were required to boil their drinking water.
Rio Dell suffered significant damage due to the earthquake that occurred on Sunday. Residents and officials have described the quake as more like a sudden jolt than a protracted shaking. It was not immediately obvious how many structures had been damaged or even whether they had been damaged during the initial earthquake.
The county urges residents to report earthquake-related damage to the appropriate emergency authority. According to Cati Gallardo, a public information officer for Humboldt County, “We are asking community members to be prepared for aftershocks.”
As of 5 p.m. on Sunday, Humboldt County reported that approximately thirty percent of households in Rio Dell are without water, and almost fifty percent are without power. Around midday on Sunday, Pacific Gas and Electric estimated that over 1,100 homes were without power; this number had decreased to approximately 300 by the evening. There have been reports of residents losing access to their phones and the internet.
The early warning system in the state was activated on Sunday as a result of the magnitude of the earthquake that occurred on Sunday. This system is intended to notify local inhabitants. Some locals said they got an alarm a few seconds before the earthquake occurred, while others said they got their notifications after the shaking stopped.
The residents of Rio Dell and the surrounding towns, including Scotia and Fortuna, were able to capture on video a tremendous shock that caused books and other articles to fall off shelves and caused televisions to collapse to the ground. In a parking lot, doorbell cameras showed minivans rocking back and forth, as well as the wheels of a lightweight truck momentarily lifting off the ground.
Nancy Black, a local homeowner, described the event as “as if the whole house was pushed to the side.” She claimed she didn’t receive the earthquake notice until after the shaking had ceased. Still, she had a sneaking suspicion that something was about to happen since Shadow and Copper began to whimper and run in circles only seconds before the tremors started.
Black stated that it did not appear that there was any structural damage to her property; however, “everything is a mess.” Most of the contents of her pantry fell onto the floor, and she was busy picking up shattered crockery and replacing books on the shelves when the accident occurred.
In an interview with CNN, Rio Dell Mayor Debra Garnes stated that she felt the earthquake was more powerful than it had been previously. “It was a shorter story but had more intense violence. My refrigerator was shifted forward by two feet. The contents of the refrigerator were retrieved. As a result of the force of it, my wall is broken in several places.”
Greg Allen, the Chief of Police in Rio Dell, stated on Sunday that several homes had been jarred loose from their foundations and that windows in homes and businesses had been broken. He added that there are “big cracks” in some of the streets.
In an interview with a news station in the Bay Area, Allen described the damage as “a lot of things knocked off of shelves, TV from the walls, windows smashed, plates broken, and so on.” It is most likely lying on the ground if it is hanging on the wall.
For Caltrans to conduct a damage assessment, a primary entryway into the area was temporarily shut down. According to Caltrans, the historic poured-concrete Fernbridge, which carries U.S. Route 211 across the Eel River and connects coastal villages with Highway 101, was closed for several hours on Sunday to undergo a seismic safety review.
According to Gallardo, maintenance work was being performed on the bridge in the afternoon of Sunday. She stated that the bridge had reopened to traffic in one direction but warned locals to anticipate delays. State Senator Mike McGuire, a Democrat representing Healdsburg, stated that the city of Rio Dell was conducting tests on its water system to guarantee that the water was fit for human use.
The county has announced that the Monument Middle School in Rio Dell has opened its doors as a shelter for local residents who have been displaced from their homes or who require other forms of support due to the recent earthquakes. The Red Cross operates the shelter, providing sleeping mats and blankets, hygiene kits, food, drinking water, showers, and charging stations.
A data sample that spans three years reveals that the states of California and Nevada experience approximately five earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 5 to 6 annually.
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