Subscribe

A look back at the 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquakes

Thirty years ago, a 7.2 magnitude temblor walloped Humboldt County and parts of Mendocino County.

It struck on a Saturday at 11:06 a.m. North Coast residents described it as a sharp, sudden jolt, followed by violent shaking and rolling that made it difficult to stand.

Bricks fell, windows broke, roads cracked, homes shook off their foundations and fires started following the quake on April 25, 1992. Petrolia General Store employee Renee Jacobsen was at work when she felt the earthquake, and she told The Press Democrat later that fateful day how powerful it felt.

“It rocked and it felt like the whole floor was going to come up and blow,” she said.

The next day, during the wee hours of Sunday morning, two major aftershocks woke residents of the redwood towns. First at 12:41 a.m., then again at 4:18 a.m., at magnitudes of 6.5 and 6.6. on April 26, 1992.

Hazel Sarlund of the Humboldt County town of Scotia, then a Pacific Lumber Co. town, told The PD in 1992 that the first aftershock shook her house and sent most people wandering around town. But she said the second aftershock was “even more frightening.”

“We ran outside and sat in the car. We spent the rest of the night, until daylight came, listening to the car radio,” she said.

Humboldt County communities that were hard-hit included Petrolia, a town only a few miles from the quake epicenter where nearly every building was damaged; Scotia, where the downtown shopping center was destroyed in a quake-trigger fire; Ferndale, a historic town known for its Victorian homes and buildings; and Rio Dell, a town of about 3,000 people.

The earthquake and its aftershocks caused tens of millions of dollars worth of damage and left hundreds of residents homeless. No one was killed.

See the gallery above for photos of the aftermath of the 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquakes.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette