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PD Editorial: A 20-second reminder of where we live

  • KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat
    On Brown Street in downtown Napa, tourists and media gather around one of many historic structures that were damaged by the Napa temblor that tipped the scales at 6.0.

At 3:20 a.m. on Sunday, Sonoma and Napa county residents received the longest and strongest reminder in 25 years that we live in earthquake country — and the dangers of that fact are ever present. The reminder came in the form of a magnitude 6.0 quake that lasted from 10 to 20 jarring seconds and was felt from Chico to Sacramento and to Salinas.

The quake knocked out power from Sonoma to Rohnert Park, toppled a power line in Santa Rosa and jolted people awake across the North Coast. But it was Napa that got the worst of it, with an estimated 120 people were injured — three critically — thousands were left without power, several homes were destroyed and numerous venerable structures in the downtown core were left with extensive damage. But remarkably no one was killed.

Several people suffered serious injuries, however, including a young boy who was flown to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento after reportedly being hurt by a falling fireplace. Another resident suffered a heart attack and another broke a hip. But, according to officials at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, most of the 120 people who came there were treated for minor injuries, such as cuts on feet due to broken glass.

While the North Bay can be relieved that the injuries were few, the damage to buildings, cars and property appeared to be extensive. At least four homes in the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park were destroyed by a fire, reportedly triggered by gas leak. Another two had extensive damage. A number of cars were crushed when carports collapsed in apartment complexes in the Browns Valley area. In many locations, sidewalks and driveways buckled, curbs broke and roadways were left with large cracks.

Many merchants around Napa County opened their businesses to find their aisles a river of wine, olive oil, salad dressing and broken glass. Likewise, restaurants , tasting rooms, wine bars and wineries were left with similar messes and similar costly losses from lost wine and other goods.

The dawn also found Napa residents discovering, to their horror, that many of their most cherished historic buildings had suffered extensive damage. These included Main Street’s Pfeiffer Building, the historic Semorile building, the Goodman Library and the Napa County courthouse. Many of these and other masonry structures were left with cracks, gapping holes and piles of debris at their doorsteps.

Napa County officials are only beginning to calculate the extent of the overall damage. But it’s clear this was an extensive blow to an area that had undergone significant upgrades in recent years, changes that were made to draw more tourists, diners and overnight guests to the downtown area.

We join our readers and those around the nation is wishing our brethren in Napa County a quick recovery. Because when it comes to living in earthquake country, we know only one thing: We are all in the same boat — and sometimes it’s a not-so-gentle ride.


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