'Nobody was without any damage’: Larkfield homes hit hard by Santa Rosa quake, aftershock
The brunt of the damage wrought by the 4.4 and 4.3 magnitude temblors, which rattled Santa Rosa and the rest of the North Bay a day earlier, was visibly apparent Wednesday in a Larkfield neighborhood less than 5 miles north of the quakes’ epicenter.
A succession of at least six houses along Londonberry Drive, just north of Mark Springs Road, sustained significant exterior and interior damage. Some, most notably, sustained roof or chimney damage.
Melissa Willard, 39, was at her children’s soccer practice Tuesday evening at Hidden Valley Elementary School off Chanate Road when the shakers hit. She came home to find drywall damage, visible cracks and toppled shelves.
“There isn’t a room that escaped that damage,” she said. “The kitchen looks like someone had thrown a rager in our house — a tornado or grenade had gone off.”
The magnitude 4.4 earthquake took place at 6:39 p.m. Tuesday, followed 42 seconds later by a 4.3 magnitude aftershock, the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed Wednesday.
The agency initially gauged the aftershock at 3.9 magnitude, but by Wednesday its intensity was upgraded.
A preliminary USGS map of the quakes showed the epicenter located off Parker Hill Road, north of Chanate Road, about 2 miles northeast of central Santa Rosa, well within city limits.
A magnitude 2.7 temblor was recorded at 11:55 a.m. Wednesday. Its epicenter was just east of the town of Sonoma, off Thornsberry Road.
Willard said several neighbors were outside Tuesday when she and her family returned home. Many of them were in tears.
“Nobody was without any damage,” she said.
Larkfield residents say many of the affected homes along the area were built in the late 1950s. They surmised their neighborhood was hit especially hard because of an unfortunate combination of aging infrastructure, proximity to the epicenter and weakened soil due to the nearby Mark West Creek.
All things considered, Tara Brunner said she is trying to remain positive in spite of her damaged chimney and the crack in her home’s foundation, near the front door.
“You’re like, ‘Wow, your house could be leveled right now,’ ” said the 41-year-old, who added it is still too early to identify the full extent of the damage and how much repairs will cost.
Next door live Elinor and Robert Steele, whose wall decorations and glass dishes fell to the floor Tuesday night. One of the dishes hit Elinor Steele’s right wrist, which bled heavily and was still bandaged Wednesday.
Reflecting on the earthquake, she was surprised it registered 4.4 magnitude.
“It felt like a 9 or 10 and it just roared. So loud,” she added.
Her husband, who was knocked to the ground during the jolts, said he was momentarily stunned.
“I told my wife to leave me be. Let me get my thoughts together,” Robert Steele said.
Passersby turned their heads whenever they drove past the home of Scott Baer, whose chimney was damaged and is now being supported by beams. Scaffolding outside the one-story home also made the damage obvious.
The 52-year-old general contractor visited neighbors to assess damage and estimated at least 10 homes have damaged chimneys.
“I think the hard part is a lot of people don’t know,” he said.
Baer was having dinner with his family when the shakers occurred and he said the experience “was crazy.”
“It literally looked like the house was made out of rubber,” he said.
Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers tweeted late Tuesday that most of the 911 calls received after the earthquakes were reports of gas leaks and a few broken water lines. “Some fallen ceiling tiles, broken glass from items flying off shelves, and two stuck elevators (with no one inside),” he said.
Robert de Groot, ShakeAlert system coordinator for the USGS believes the quakes were fairly common-sized temblors for California.
“Magnitude 3 and 4 events happen fairly frequently. Magnitude 5 events happen less frequently, but this was sort of run of the mill,” he said.
Seismologist Lucy Jones tweeted that the quakes were on the Rodgers Creek fault, which is part of the San Andreas system.
“Every quake has a 5% chance of being followed by a larger quake within the next three days,” Jones said. “But most are only a little bit larger. When it is right on a big fault, capable of a big quake, the chance that that following earthquake will be big is a little higher, but still small.”