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'Nobody was without any damage’: Larkfield homes hit hard by Santa Rosa quake, aftershock

How to prepare for an earthquake

One of the most important things you and your family can do before an earthquake is to have a plan:

– Be prepared by creating a plan for how to reach one another.

– Establish out-of-area contact who coordinate family members' locations and information should you become separated. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.

– Keep copies of important documents at the house of your out-of-area contact or keep important documents and valuables in a fireproof storage box or safe deposit box.

– Prepare a disaster supplies kit, which includes emergency food and water for the home. Keep a smaller version in your vehicle. Families with children should have each child create their own personal pack. View the California Department of Public Health's recommendations on what to pack.

– Know evacuation routes. Establish several different routes in case certain roads are blocked or closed.

– Decide how to take care of pets. Pets are not allowed in places where food is served - so you will need to have a place to take your pets if you have to go to a shelter.

– Don't run out of gas! Always run on the top half of the tank, not on the bottom half.

– Visit other earthquake preparation sites, including: Earthquake Country Alliance, SF72, Great California Shakeout, and Santa Rosa Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies (COPE).

(Source: srcity.org)

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.”

Several faults exist in Sonoma County and the Bay Area .

The Rodgers Creek fault, runs from San Pablo Bay at the southern tip of Sonoma County north through Santa Rosa to Healdsburg. It is also part of the Hayward fault system.

It sits along Santa Rosa's east side — from Taylor Mountain, through Doyle Park, near Providence Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and past the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery.

The last big earthquake along it occurred 53 years ago.

Just before 10 p.m. Oct. 1, 1969, a 5.6 magnitude quake hit. It was followed about 90 minutes later by a 5.7 magnitude quake. A third temblor, 3.8 magnitude, occurred about six hours after the second, according to Press Democrat reports at the time.

There were several minor injuries, but no deaths.

According to a USGS report on the 1969 quakes, more than 100 buildings were damaged or destroyed, including 13 hotels, and the total loss exceeded $7 million.

Since then there have been other smaller quakes along the Rodgers Creek fault.

On Aug. 2, 2006, a 4.4 magnitude temblor struck just after 8 p.m. Its epicenter was 3 miles west of Glen Ellen along the the Rodgers Creek fault, experts said.

On Nov. 29, 2010, a 2.6 magnitude quake was reported, again, along the Rodgers Creek fault .

On Sept. 30, 2021, a 3.2 magnitude quake, with anepicenter about 2 miles east-southeast of Santa Rosa, took place.

In each of these instances, authorities said there was minimal damage and no injuries.

The most-damaging quake to hit the North Bay region in the past decade occurred on Aug. 24, 2014, when a 6.0 magnitude shaker struck southern Napa County.

Napa County sustained most of the damage and economic losses, which were estimated at $1 billion. Sonoma County, though, declared a state of emergency and estimated its damages at $4.5 million, with more than half of the area’s wineries affected.

Abby Volz, an employee at Whole Foods near Coddingtown Mall, said few items fell off shelves, no employees were hurt and everyone got out of the store safely.

“We were all in the middle of transactions — it was crazy,” she said. “I was with another cashier and all of a sudden the whole store started shaking. She reacted really quickly, she dove under the nearest cash register.”

Numerous Sonoma County residents told The Press Democrat they felt the earthquakes. The jolts stretched as far north as Mendocino County and as far south as Santa Clara County, according to various Twitter posts.

Santa Rosa resident Cailyn McCauley said her family was eating tacos for dinner when the shaking began.

“For approximately 20 to 30 seconds, we rode the dining room table like it was a roller coaster,” McCauley said. “After it calmed down, we got up to go outside when there was another quick jolt and the rumble was lower this time and the house shook for only about 10 seconds. We heard a glass crack but that was the extent of the damage.”

Sonoma County Supervisor Chris Coursey, who represents Santa Rosa in District 3, said late Tuesday that it was too early to say if there was any significant damage to county facilities.

Coursey, who added that the Rodgers Creek fault runs underneath his neighborhood, was on a phone call in his kitchen when the earthquake and the aftershock happened.

“I let out a couple of expletives and immediately got into a doorway as fast as I could,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever reacted to an earthquake that way.”

Coursey, who has lived in Santa Rosa for 42 years said Tuesday’s shakers felt like the strongest he has experienced.

The supervisor said he hopes the temblors were “just a wake-up call” — reminding residents they must prepare for earthquakes just like for wildfires.

Press Democrat Staff Writers Paulina Pineda and Kathleen Coates contributed to this story

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi

How to prepare for an earthquake

One of the most important things you and your family can do before an earthquake is to have a plan:

– Be prepared by creating a plan for how to reach one another.

– Establish out-of-area contact who coordinate family members' locations and information should you become separated. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.

– Keep copies of important documents at the house of your out-of-area contact or keep important documents and valuables in a fireproof storage box or safe deposit box.

– Prepare a disaster supplies kit, which includes emergency food and water for the home. Keep a smaller version in your vehicle. Families with children should have each child create their own personal pack. View the California Department of Public Health's recommendations on what to pack.

– Know evacuation routes. Establish several different routes in case certain roads are blocked or closed.

– Decide how to take care of pets. Pets are not allowed in places where food is served - so you will need to have a place to take your pets if you have to go to a shelter.

– Don't run out of gas! Always run on the top half of the tank, not on the bottom half.

– Visit other earthquake preparation sites, including: Earthquake Country Alliance, SF72, Great California Shakeout, and Santa Rosa Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies (COPE).

(Source: srcity.org)

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