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Teams of inspectors start assessment of Napa quake damage

  • Gabe Scholl and Brad Montagne discard pieces of a collapsed chimney at a drop off site in the Napa Union High School parking lot following Sunday's earthquake on Monday, August 25, 2014 in Napa, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

A small platoon of building inspectors scoured Napa’s central core Monday, visiting commercial and residential properties door to door in what is likely to become an arduous task of assessing the full extent of Sunday’s earthquake.

About 30 inspection teams, each with two inspectors, were tasked with conducting at least “windshield,” or quick exterior, inspections or assessments of properties in and near downtown Napa. As of 5 p.m. Monday, at least 70 buildings in the city have been “red-tagged” by building inspectors, which means the structures are uninhabitable because of earthquake damage.

On Sunday, there were 10 teams doing inspections, said Rick Tooker, Napa Community Development Director. Prior to Monday’s inspections, 35 percent of the town center already had been assessed, Tooker told reporters Monday.

Aftermath Of Napa Earthquake

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Some city officials said it’s too early to fully determine the effectiveness of years of earthquake preparedness and structural retrofitting in the downtown area. Deeper structural inspections will come later after current preliminary inspections that are aimed at essentially determining whether structures are safe to inhabit.

One inspector said Monday afternoon that of the 25 to 30 buildings that he inspected, half of them had seismic retrofitting. These buildings, he said, were still standing.

Napa Earthquake Information Map

“The retrofitting saved the building from collapsing; it did it’s job,” said Curt Taras, a professional civil engineer participating in the state Office of Emergency Services’ Safety Assessment Program. Taras was dispatched to Napa to assist in earthquake inspections.

Taras said that although retrofitted buildings were damaged, “the structural steel that was put inside effectively saved the building.”

On Monday afternoon, Taras, accompanied by Casey Handcock, a civil engineering student and intern with the Napa Public Works Department, made their way through downtown searching for damage.

At a home on Seminary Street, Taras knocked on the front door until the owner, Wes Jones, answered. Jones gave Taras a tour of the property, highlighting the most visible damage. Inside the house, there were numerous cracks on walls and on the staircase. Plaster had fallen off at least one section of lath and plaster wall, exposing wood slats.

Jones said the building took damage in 2000 after a magnitude-5.2 earthquake struck Napa Valley. That earthquake caused an estimated $55 million in damage in the valley. The home’s original chimney had to be replaced.


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