A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Northern California early Tuesday, killing at least two people and leaving thousands without power, as officials warned that another major tremor could be on the way.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency, freeing up state and federal resources for the area. Earlier, state officials warned residents in Humboldt County to brace themselves for another quake.
According to Cynthia Pridmore, a senior engineering geologist with the California Geological Survey, there is a 13% chance that another powerful jolt of magnitude 5.0 or greater will occur within the next week.
She instructed county residents to gather food, water, flashlights, and other supplies.
“People do need to be prepared, especially if they’re in weakened structures, to be mindful of where they’re staying,” she said.
According to Pacific Gas and Electric, nearly 30,000 homes and businesses in the county were without power as of 7:41 p.m.
The city of Eureka set up a charging station for residents without power to plug in their phones, computers, and medical equipment, while police urged shopkeepers to keep an eye on their storefronts because “there have already been several reports of burglaries to businesses.”
“Power is out across the county,” Humboldt County’s Office of Emergency Services tweeted, adding, “DO NOT CALL 911 UNLESS YOU HAVE AN IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY.”
The county sheriff’s office warned residents to “be prepared for aftershocks” and to check gas and water lines for damage or leaks after widespread damage to roads and homes was reported throughout the county.
“Be cautious when travelling,” it added.
The historic Fernbridge in Ferndale has been closed due to “possible seismic damage,” according to the state Transportation Department. A photo posted online by the agency showed cracks in the bridge.
The quake struck at a depth of 10 miles near Eureka in Humboldt County just after 2:30 a.m. PT, according to the US Geological Survey.
According to the agency, it happened about 7.4 miles west-southwest of Ferndale.
Two people, ages 72 and 83, died as a result of medical emergencies following the quake, according to Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal. He claimed that emergency responders were unable to get them to the appropriate facility in time.
Honsal said another 12 people were injured, though he expected that number to rise.
Rio Dell, with a population of about 3,300 people, was one of the communities hardest hit by the quake and the dozens of aftershocks that followed, according to Honsal.
Rio Dell City Manager Kyle Knopp told reporters that the city would be without water for 24 to 48 hours and that more than 30 homes would be damaged. He said fifteen of the houses had been “red tagged,” or determined to be uninhabitable.
Knopp estimated that up to 150 people could be displaced.
“There has been significant damage in other areas, but it has been acute here in Rio Dell,” he said.
Mike Shapiro, a car salesman from Eureka, said the quake jolted him awake before knocking him out.
“I stood up, took two steps, and landed on the floor. The second jolt simply yanked my feet out from under me “said Shapiro, 54. “I’m fine; I just spent three hours picking up broken glass.”
Shapiro vividly remembered the 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquakes and said he has dutifully strapped down furniture and appliances ever since.
“Earthquakes don’t usually make me nervous, but this one did,” Shapiro said. “I’m just relieved that everything was secured. Nothing fell on us.”
The National Weather Service’s tsunami warning system reported that there was no threat of a tsunami early Tuesday.
A number of people reported on social media that the MyShake earthquake warning app on their phones woke them up.
According to a USGS seismologist, people living near the coast experienced “significant shaking.” According to the seismologist, people should expect minor damage, such as items falling off shelves, as well as possible foundational damage.
The quake comes almost exactly a year after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Northern California on December 21, 2021. There were no major injuries or damage reported as a result of the quake. It struck at a depth of 5.6 miles in the Pacific Ocean, about 24 miles west of Petrolia, along the rocky wilderness of California’s Lost Coast region in Humboldt County, according to the Geological Survey and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department at the time.
California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, which was already on winter break, asked everyone except essential personnel to stay off campus while inspectors assessed the damage.
CORRECTION (December 20, 2022, 11 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the age of one of the deceased. The person was 83 years old, not three.