UPDATE, 6:59 p.m.: Power’s Back in Most of Eureka; Sheriff Declares Local State of Emergency
Power started returning to Eureka residences late in the afternoon, and by now most of the city is back online, as is the Samoa Peninsula. As of this writing, the PG&E outage map is showing Arcata, McKinleyville, the Eel River Valley and indeed most everywhere else still down, but who knows — the map lags reality a little.
Sheriff William Honsal has declared a local state of emergency.
Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:
Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal has declared a Local Emergency as a result of today’s 6.4M earthquake and widespread damages sustained throughout Humboldt County.
The declaration allows for the county to seek state and federal reimbursement for damage repairs and other associated impacts. The amount of funding depends on the agencies that assist, including the State of California and federal government.
The County of Humboldt is requesting all available response and recovery assistance from the State of California and its agencies, including the California Public Utilities Commission, and the United States government and its agencies, as deemed appropriate by the Governor of California, including funding under the California Disaster Assistance Act and the federal Stafford Act.
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 4:28 p.m.: Video of Today’s Press Conference
California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office issued the following statement:
SACRAMENTO – Working to ensure the safety of Californians in the aftermath of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Humboldt County, Governor Gavin Newsom today activated the State Operations Center to coordinate the ongoing emergency response with local and tribal governments and provide any needed resources, including shelter, food and water, and aid in damage assessments of buildings and roadways. In addition, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is working with local utilities to rapidly restore power.
“Jennifer and I send our heartfelt condolences to the families grieving the loss of loved ones and offer our best wishes for the recovery of those who were injured in this earthquake,” said Governor Newsom. “California stands with the people of Humboldt County and the state has moved quickly to support the emergency response underway with local and tribal partners. I thank all of the women and men who have mobilized to protect public safety and support the community at this challenging time.”
Governor Newsom has also directed state agencies and departments to take appropriate action as necessary to provide support to local communities, including the California Department of Transportation to ensure the safety of roadways, the California Highway Patrol to protect public safety, the California Department of Public Health and Emergency Medical Services Authority to aid local hospitals, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to help address any possible additional emergencies and the California Geological Survey for continued earthquake monitoring.
— Ryan Burns
UPDATE, 3:45 p.m.: Boil Water Notice; Photos of Homes Damaged in Today’s Quake
The Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services has issued a “boil water advisory” for residents of Rio Dell and Fortuna. Last we heard water was still out in Rio Dell, but officials said anything that does come out of the pipes should be boiled before consumption.
The lack of reliable internet and cell coverage is complicating matters for residents of Rio Dell, about 30 of whom have been displaced from their homes. Local officials said that thankfully, most of those displaced residents have been able to find friends or family members willing to house them temporarily. At least one person has been lined up with a hotel room.
A brick chimney and fireplace insert collapsed across the front yard of a home on Riverside Drive in Rio Dell. A resident, who gave only her first name, Rachel, said the structure crumbled during the largest quake, shortly after 2:35 a.m.
The collapse left a gaping hole in the exterior of the home, exposing Rachel, her husband and their son to the elements. The quake caused more damage inside, leaving piles of belongings spread across the floor.
“We’ve been up since 2:30 in the morning and we’re just trying to shovel through everything,” Rachel said. “We’ve got nothing left.” Her voice cracked and tears came to her eyes as she described shoveling her family’s belongings into a trash can.
The family purchased the home about five years ago but does not have earthquake insurance.
“That’s too expensive,” Rachel said.
Here are some photos of other Rio Dell homes damaged in the earthquake.
— Ryan Burns
UPDATE, 2:58 p.m.: Rio Dell is in a Bad Way
The Outpost’s Ryan Burns was at the Rio Dell press conference held by the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services, which ended just a few minutes ago.
Bottom line, at the press conference: The city of Rio Dell is in a bad way, and seems by far to be the hardest-hit town by the 2:30 a.m. earthquake. There is no running water, and they don’t expect to have any by the end of the day. It could be 48 hours before service is restored.
About half of the town’s homes have been inspected, and 12 have been red-tagged — meaning that they are not safely inhabitable. Figuring an average of 2.5 people per household, that means about 30 of the town’s residents — that they know of — have been displaced.
There is bottled water available at Fireman’s Hall, along with port-o-potties. The city will restart inspections tomorrow morning.
The Office of Emergency Services gave a couple of updates to the injury statistics released earlier. They now know of a dozen people who were injured during the quake, mostly minor. There was one broken hip and one head injury. The two people who died were ages 72 and 83, the OES said, and both died because they couldn’t get timely medical care.
The large aftershock that struck just after 2 p.m. came mid-press-conference. As you can expect, there were jokes. “That was not planned,” one person at the podium quipped.
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 2:26 p.m.: From a PG&E Rep
Our crews have completed initial transmission inspections following this morning’s earthquake in Humboldt County. Watch for updates as we begin to restore service to our customers and hometowns in the area. https://t.co/8r3rnt8V6F pic.twitter.com/edOgb83MqK— Megan McFarland (@PGE_Megan) December 20, 2022
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 1:03 p.m.: The Aftershock Forecast
The USGS is currently forecasting a 13 percent change of a magnitude 5 or greater aftershock in the next week, and only a 1 percent chance of an aftershock of magnitude 6 or more.
The survey updates its forecasts regularly. Follow updates here.
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 12:46 p.m.:
A brief explainer about the M6.4 earthquake near Ferndale in Northern California pic.twitter.com/3Ar03QFlC3— Wendy Bohon, PhD 🌏 (@DrWendyRocks) December 20, 2022
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 12:40 p.m.: St. Joe’s Says You Can Charge Medical Devices There, Asks People to Use The Emergency Room For True Emergencies Only
Press release from Providence/St. Joseph:
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been impacted by today’s earthquake in Humboldt County. Thankfully, we have not seen an increase in visits to our emergency departments at Providence St. Joseph Hospital and Providence Redwood Memorial Hospital as a result of the earthquake. Minor injuries have been reported related to incidents associated with broken glass; in addition to slips, trips and falls due to fallen furniture in homes.
Our hospitals have power and are operating on generators at present. We have rescheduled all elective surgeries scheduled for today at St. Joseph Hospital and Redwood Memorial Hospital and have contacted affected patients to ensure care continuity. We are only performing emergent procedures at present. In addition, Providence Medical Group clinic offices in Humboldt County are closed for the day.
So that we can best meet the needs of our community, we kindly remind everyone to utilize our emergency department for emergent care only. For those needing to charge their medical devices, we are available to support you. For additional charging needs, the City of Eureka has opened the Eureka Municipal Auditorium at 1120 F. St. from 10am – 5pm.
We are open and continue to provide high quality care to our community. We’d like to recognize our caregivers who have been here since the early hours of the morning and thank them for their dedication, compassion and commitment to caring for our community.
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 12:28 p.m.:
Fortuna is asking residents to report structural damage at the following number: (707) 725-1407. They’ll get an inspector over to you. Non-structural damage can be reported at the same number.
Same goes for Eureka. The number there is (707)
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 12:20 p.m.:
- ‘Significant’ Damages in Rio Dell Area, Says Humboldt Office of Emergency Services; 11 Injuries, Two Dead from Medical Emergencies
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 12:05 p.m.: The Latest From PG&E
As of a few moments ago, PG&E says:
PG&E crews are still assessing damage to our facilities and will provide an estimated time of restoration as soon as possible. During earthquakes or when there is widespread damage, it is more challenging to predict actual restoration times. There could be issues accessing our equipment due to hazards or heavily-damaged buildings and roads or damage to our facilities could be widespread. We need to access each outage and may not be able to provide a restoration time immediately.
We know that restoring power quickly is important. Our crews work overtime, and we bring in resources from outside the area to help restore power safely and as quickly as possible.
Restoration is prioritized for critical customers such as hospitals, telecom and water districts. Largest outages are restored first to get the highest number of customers restored quickly.
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 11:32 a.m.: Charging Stations (That We Know Of)
A lot of local jurisdictions have set up charging stations for people who need to get their phones or medical devices juiced up. Hey, I’m sitting at one right now!
Here are the ones that we know of that are up today:
- Eureka Municipal Auditorium (‘til 5 p.m.)
- Trinidad Town Hall
- The J (for Cal Poly Humboldt students/staff only)
- Rohner Park Pavilion, Fortuna
- A couple of people tell us that Thomas Home Center on Sutter in McKinleyville is letting people charge up.
- Potawot Village in Arcata until 5:30 p.m., someone says.
Know of more? Drop us a line: email@example.com
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 11:17 a.m.: McGuire Says to Expect Late Power-Up
State Senator Mike McGuire, who unlike all media can get through to the PG&E people who actually know something, says to expect a long day without juice:
Humboldt: PG&E crews have been deployed throughout the region to inspect electric transmission lines. It’s taking longer than expected because helicopters are grounded due to weather. Folks should anticipate a late restoration. Crews are working hard to get the job done.— Mike McGuire (@ilike_mike) December 20, 2022
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 10:48 a.m.: Scoping Out the Lloyd
Traffic is down to one lane on Fifth between C and D in Eureka as Humboldt Bay Fire and city inspectors examine the damage to one of the county’s earthquake-sketchiest buildings — the Lloyd.
The three-story, reinforced brick structure — named, believe it or not, after the actor Lloyd Bridges — is right on the highway. Eureka City Manager Miles Slattery tells the Outpost that they’re only in the inspection phase right now.
The Outpost’s Ryan Burns profiled the Lloyd and its weird, fascinating history back in 2015. It most recently belonged to the late Floyd Squires III, the Eureka slumlord who passed away earlier this year. Presumably it is still part of his estate.
— Hank Sims
UPDATE, 10 a.m.: Nearly 72,000 Homes and Businesses Without Power, PG&E Says
The following press release from PG&E doesn’t tell us much we didn’t already know, and it doesn’t include any estimate for power restoration.
The safety of our customers, employees, contractors and the communities we serve is PG&E’s top priority.
PG&E has initiated its emergency response plan and crews are responding to gas and electric hazards in Humboldt County following a magnitude 6.4 earthquake and aftershocks early this morning. The quake was recorded at 2:34 a.m. off the coast, about 7.5 miles from the city of Ferndale.
Our crews are assessing the gas and electric system for any damage and doing everything possible to minimize power and gas outages. Our assessment could take several days. About 71,850 customers were without power as of 9 a.m.
All customers are urged to use extreme caution around heavily-damaged buildings and to be prepared for further aftershocks that can create more destruction and hazards. Customers should report damaged electric and gas lines from a safe location to PG&E’s toll-free line at 1-800-743-5002.
— Ryan Burns
UPDATE, 9:37 a.m.: Damage Reports Still Coming In
While it appears that Humboldt County has largely avoided serious structural damage from this morning’s 6.4 magnitude earthquake and subsequent aftershocks, at least two people have been injured and tens of thousands of customers remain without power.
Power restoration estimates on PG&E’s outage page vary — and, as noted below, they’re of questionable accuracy. Personnel at the Humboldt Bay Fire Station 1 say the best estimate they’ve heard remains 10 p.m. for the Eureka area.
One local woman reported on Facebook that her mother had fallen down the stairs and asked people for their prayers.
We’re hearing lots of reports of broken glass, cracked plaster and leaks in water and gas lines. The worst damage report we’ve heard thus far was posted to our Facebook comments this morning:
The City of Eureka issued a press release a few minutes ago saying that there’s a “charging center” available at the Eureka Municipal Auditorium, 1120 F Street from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. today. The auditorium will have power available for residents to charge phones, tablets and necessary medical equipment. City staff advises that you dress warmly since the Muni is a large building and difficult to heat.
The City’s water supply has not been impacted, according to the release. Read the rest of it below:
The City of Eureka has also established a dedicated line for residents and businesses to report damage to their buildings. Structural damage can be reported to 707-441-4155 and an inspector will respond for a safety assessment.
Non-structural damage such as broken windows, cracked plaster and broken masonry can also be reported to 707-441-4155. Staff will not respond to inspect and will retain the information for the City’s Emergency Declaration assessment.
Eureka Communications Center is experiencing a high call volume and request that you only phone 911 for life threatening emergencies, see downed power lines or smell gas. Power is out throughout the greater Eureka area. Approach intersections with caution. Any signal out or blinking needs to be treated like a stop sign. As always, please be patient and courteous while driving. Pay attention and stay safe!
Other non-emergency calls can be directed to the following numbers:
- Eureka Police Business Line 441-4060
- Humboldt Bay Fire 441-4000
- Eureka Public Works 441-4203
- Eureka Administration 441-4144
The Adorni Center, Wharfinger Building and Zoo will not be open today. Eureka City Hall is open from 9 AM to 4 PM. City staff continues to assess damage to buildings and infrastructure. At this time, no significant damage has been reported.
The City of Fortuna reports multiple water leaks throughout the city. Some residents may lack running water. “The city Utilities crew is doing their best to assess and fix the damage caused from the earthquake,” reads a statement posted to Twitter.
Meanwhile, Kym Kemp is reporting that as many as 100 families in the Rio Dell area could be displaced by home damage, according to Rio Dell Fire Chief Shane Wilson. A shelter for displaced families will be set up at the elementary school campus.
— Ryan Burns
UPDATE, 8:43 a.m.: Damage to Fernbridge; Supes Meeting Canceled
As you can see from the photo above, last night’s quakes crumbled a good deal of asphalt where State Route 211 connects to Fernbridge. That route remains closed while Caltrans conducts safety inpsections.
A few minutes ago we heard on the scanner that there is a power line down on Eureka’s J Street between Fourth and Fifth. Emergency responders are closing off J to deal with that issue.
Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors meeting scheduled for today has been canceled, though the swearing in ceremony for newly elected officials will proceed as planned. The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.
Hungry? Need coffee? Both Los Bagels locations (Arcata and Eureka) are open, according to a Facebook post, and they plan to remain open until 2 p.m.
— Ryan Burns
UPDATE, 8:29 a.m.:
Eureka Natural Foods lets us know that they’re open in both Eureka and McKinleyville. The Arcata Co-op’s also open. (UPDATE: But not the Eureka Co-op.)
— Hank Sims
Well, that was quite a ride. Seriously, probably one of the top two or three this reporter has ever experienced in his 50+ years.
The good news is that there seems to be no major structural damage following the early morning 6.4 quake that rocked the county and woke everyone up for a spell. Caltrans currently has Fernbridge shut while they inspect it for damage, but apart from that there don’t seem to be any major concerns.
The city of Eureka asks that you report structural damage to your Eureka building, if you find any such damage at this number: 707-441-4155.
Aftershocks are coming in hot and heavy, none of them particularly exciting. So far. Knock on wood.
Power is out all across the county, and the PG&E outage tracker — never a particularly reliable guide — is currently forecasting it’ll be out until 10 p.m. today. We’ll see.
Schools are closed across the county. Humboldt State is open to essential personnel only.
We’ll be posting updates here. Stay safe, everyone!
Comments to our earlier Facebook post: