s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 5 of 15 free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read 10 of 15 free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
Ooops! You're out of free articles. Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading all of our products and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?

NAPA — Lorraine Balbi’s world crashed down around her in the darkness.

Hearing her neighbor screaming her name after being jolted awake, the 67-year-old woman pulled herself out of bed to go to the door. She opened it to the sickening sight of flames from a broken gas pipe licking the side of her mobile home.

“I went back for my dog and my cellphone. Then I got out,” Balbi said.

She and the dog, Georgie, managed to escape the fire before it destroyed the home. Three other homes burned to the ground at the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park in the aftermath of Sunday’s magnitude-6.0 temblor, which in an instant visited nighttime terror on this city of 80,000.

Despite its reputation as a relatively peaceful Wine Country destination, Napa has not been immune to disaster, including devastating floods and earthquakes that sparked renewed calls to retrofit buildings to current seismic standards. But in the aftermath of Sunday’s quake, city officials red-tagged nearly three dozen buildings, essentially declaring them too dangerous to enter, at least until an inspection is conducted. That development is likely to spark more discussion about how best to address earthquake risk.

Sunday’s 3:20 a.m. temblor struck with a ferocity many said paralyzed them in their own beds. They described the initial jolt stunning them awake, but then feeling too frightened and powerless to do anything until the shaking finally stopped several terrifying seconds later.

“I thought either I’m going to die in bed, or it’s going to stop. I couldn’t move,” said Napa Fire Capt. Steve Becker, who was asleep at Napa’s downtown fire station when the earthquake struck.

About 45 minutes later, Becker had donned his fire gear and was leading emergency personnel at the Orchard Avenue mobile home park west of Highway 29 where several fires forced the evacuation of hundreds into a temporary shelter at the park’s clubhouse.

Several miles to the west, 90-year-old Ben Ferro felt blood begin to ooze from a wound on his head after the earthquake struck and a dresser tipped over on him. The decorated war veteran, who earned a Purple Heart after he was shot in battle, said he thought his northwest Napa home had “blown up.”

A neighbor drove Ferro and his wife to Queen of the Valley Medical Center, where his head wound was bandaged and he was sent home.

Kim Beltran, who was at the hospital with one of her daughters, said she’d just nodded off when the temblor began and the wounded starting arriving en masse. Beltran said two older women who were still wearing their nightgowns came into the emergency room with blood running down their faces. They were followed by another man whose entire face and chest were soaked in blood.

“When I initially arrived at the ER around 2:15 a.m., there were five people in the waiting room,” Beltran said. “By 3:30, it was packed with a line of people out the door.”

Joseph Dillon’s 14-year-old brother, Nicholas, was among the most seriously injured. The boy was having a slumber party when the quake hit.

Nicholas Dillon was sleeping on the living room floor, at the foot of a brick fireplace that reached the ceiling, when it toppled over on him.

At the time, his mother, grandparents and his brother’s friend were in the Eva Street single-story home.

“My mom was crying,” his brother said. “It was a whole lot of drama.”

Nicholas was taken to UC Davis Medical Center with a fractured pelvis, his grandmother said.

Joseph Dillon said his parents were at the hospital late Sunday afternoon and he was waiting for an update.

They cleaned the debris from their living room. The quake left a yawning crevasse of exposed brick in their living room wall.

Mike Dion described the horror of he and his wife frantically rushing to their two sons’ aid.

“It was dark. We were feeling around and yelling their names,” Dion said. The boys rode out the quake in their bunk beds.

As far away as St. Helena, some 20 miles from Napa, retired Cal Fire engineer Mark Jones said he first thought the “big one” had hit. He said in the 16 years he’s lived in the town he’s never experienced an earthquake’s effects there.

“This one pretty much shook us out of bed,” he said.

West of downtown Napa in an apartment on Browns Valley Road, Lishedy Perez and her family were awakened to the sound of smashing glass and car alarms going off.

Perez, 19, looked outside as the second of two large carports crumbled on top of about 20 parked cars, including her parents’ new Toyota and her uncle’s car.

“It just collapsed,” she said as she pointed toward the mound of splintered beams and tar paper shingles at the Charter Oaks apartment complex. “All the cars are destroyed.”

Inside her apartment, her parents were cleaning up a mess. Her mother was cut on the face when a picture fell during the quake. A bedroom wall was cracked.

“I don’t know how we’re going to get the car out,” she said.

About a mile west of the apartments on Browns Valley Road near Rowena Lane, crews patched large cracks in the road caused when an underground water main broke.

Neighbor Shandra Knego said part of the road started to wash out. Public works officials told her it could take weeks to get the water back on.

“You could hear the water rushing down the street,” she said.

U.S. Geological Survey officials told her a fault line was running under her house. They warned her aftershocks were likely.

“I don’t think I’ll be putting anything back on the shelves soon,” she said.

Downtown Napa was hit particularly hard, with numerous buildings suffering what appeared to be major damage, including some of Napa’s most storied addresses. That included the historic courthouse on Brown Street, which among other things is still used as a jury assembly room, and the Goodman Library Building on First Street, which houses the Napa County Historical Society.

The Pfeiffer Building, Napa’s oldest commercial building dating back to 1875, was a shambles, its stone face ripped apart by the quake to reveal its underpinnings. City officials had red-tagged 33 buildings by Sunday evening. They did not specify which ones.

At a news conference, City Manager Mike Parness said the purpose of reinforcing stone masonry buildings is so that the structures remain standing after an earthquake, not to fully protect it from quake damage.

He said three of the red-tagged buildings had yet to be reinforced to the city’s standards. They all are on Brown Street.

Downtown Napa has undergone a significant makeover in recent years to bring life to the area and lure more tourists to the city. The changes include the addition of numerous high-end restaurants and several new hotels. At the same time, the city has tried to maintain some of its historic charm.

Mike Desimoni, whose family owns two historic buildings downtown, said Sunday that people will need to “sit down and reassess” things in the aftermath of the quake.

“I don’t think anybody can point any fingers at all. It is what it is,” he said.

Even newer development downtown did not appear to be spared damage. The Andaz Hotel on First Street appeared to have several new cracks snaking on the outside walls. The hotel, which was evacuated early Sunday, still had police tape around it Sunday evening.

As the day wore on, downtown was busy with people milling the closed streets to get a firsthand look at the quake damage. Many lamented the state of the historic buildings while also expressing relief that more people weren’t injured.

“It’s only product. The building is fine. We have insurance. We’ll probably be open for business,” said David Gadlin at Lucero Olive Oil on First Street as employees swept up dozens of broken vinegar and olive oil bottles.

But for Balbi, who said she lost many irreplaceable items in the fire that destroyed her home — including the American flag given to her after her father, a veteran, died — Sunday’s quake represents an enduring tragedy.

“The house is gone. The car is gone. Everything,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writers Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com and Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadline derek and @ppayne.