A cautionary yet optimistic tone was set in Napa Valley on Friday heading into Labor Day weekend, the traditional kickoff for the harvest tourism season in Wine Country, less than a week after a magnitude-6.0 earthquake shook the region.
“People are coming,” said Clay Gregory, president of Visit Napa Valley, adding that only two hotels in the area were not fully open by Friday and many were booked up. “We took a big hit, but for the most part, except for a three-block area in downtown Napa, the restaurants, wineries and hotels are open for business. This has been difficult, but it has not been a disaster.”
Napa County was prepared to welcome what officials hoped would be a deluge of visitors expected for the holiday weekend, said city spokesman Barry Martin, who noted that about 95 percent of restaurants were open as well as the vast majority of wineries.
“We’re telling everybody we’re open for business,” Martin said. “There’s damage, but it’s only a small percentage of places a visitor would want to go.”
Cleanup and damage assessments continued mostly around downtown Napa, hit hardest by the largest quake in magnitude to strike the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.
City officials and tourism representatives joined business owners in touting the quick recovery of the majority of a region that relies heavily on visitor dollars, especially at this time of year when the traditional harvest season is gearing up.
Jeff Perry, general manager of the Napa Winery Inn, said he was booked solid this weekend and reservations were filling up into October.
“We’re telling our guests that Napa is doing fine,” he said. “There are people and businesses that are affected and will be for some time, and we’re sensitive to that, but we’ve picked ourselves up. Harvest is happening.”
Perry, whose hotel was without power and hot water Sunday and part of Monday, said once the initial shock wore off and it became apparent relatively few people were seriously injured, the cleanup began in earnest.
“The effort and cooperation here has been amazing,” said Tom Fuller, spokesman for the Oxbow Public Market, a major Napa dining and shopping destination for tourists and locals. “There was a hangover the first couple of days, into maybe Tuesday afternoon. Everybody was assessing the structures and the damage. But since then, we’ve had a steady crowd of people.”
Only about 200 customers were without water service as of Friday morning, but crews were able to finish those repairs by midafternoon, Martin said.
“To the best of my knowledge, service has been returned to all customers,” he said, adding that there may be other breaks as the entire system is brought back on line. “The caveat is that in an earthquake, some lines are damaged, but they may not have broken yet. As service is restored and pressure builds, it’s possible there may be other breaks. But we’re going to keep at it.”
Martin said Napa County released the groups of emergency workers from around the region that came to assist with the damage following the predawn temblor.
Officials were warning residents to resist the temptation to enter red- and yellow-tagged homes to retrieve belongings.
On Thursday, fire crews rescued a man from an Oak Street residence that had been red-tagged as uninhabitable after he returned to the home, apparently trying to get some of his things, Martin said. The house had been knocked off its foundation by the earthquake and on Thursday shifted even further while the man was on the second story, according to the Napa Fire Department. Firefighters used a ladder to rescue him.