Quake hits Northern California with 5.2 magnitude

NAPA, Calif. - A 5.2-magnitude earthquake jolted residents in the heart of Northern California's wine country, injuring more than 25 people, knocking out windows, breaking gas and water mains, and shutting down power to about half the county.

Three people were hospitalized following the early Sunday morning temblor, including a 5-year-old boy in critical condition with head injuries and a broken pelvis after chimney parts fell on him. Two others - a 41-year-old man and 37-year-old woman - were both in fair condition, said Debbie Fisher of Queen of the Valley Hospital.

Seventy-one people, including 23 children, spent Sunday night in an emergency shelter in a Napa church, said Jason Smith of the American Red Cross.

Napa officials estimated the quake caused between $5 million and $15 million in damage. About 100-150 buildings sustained structural damage, including collapsed chimneys and broken hot water heaters, according to Napa police.

Most of those bedding down for the night on cots at the First Baptist Church were evacuated from the same two-story apartment building, Smith said. City inspectors asked residents to leave the building Sunday afternoon after they deemed it ''unsafe,'' said Matt Wilson of Napa's building and street inspection department.

Those inside the shelter were hoping for a better night's sleep and a quick return to their homes.

''I woke up to the television flying across the room,'' said Etta Crocker, 52, who arrived at the shelter Sunday afternoon with her daughter and two teen-age grandchildren. ''It's been very difficult. We're all just kind of in shock now. Everybody just keeps sitting on their cots and staring at each other.''

Earlier in the day, downtown streets were thick with tourists, as most shops and restaurants were open for business and a river festival was under way. Yellow tape kept them from areas where glass had shattered, and temporary stop signs were placed at intersections where traffic signals weren't working.

The quake hit at 1:36 a.m. about 6 miles northwest of Napa and 6 miles northeast of Sonoma, near the small town of Yountville, according to the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park.

Priscilla Miller, a volunteer at the downtown visitor's center, said by early afternoon 800 or more people had come in asking for directions and advice on places to go. That's typical for a Sunday, but she said if more people had known about the quake, there would have been fewer visitors.

''I do not think this (office) would be open,'' she said. ''I doubt once people heard about the earthquake they would come. But we have been swamped today.''

A few wineries in the area also experienced some minor damage Sunday.

''We lost about three bottles,'' said Lessly Van Houtan, who works in the tasting room of Carneros Creek winery.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Mark Bunger, who said he has lived in the Napa area his whole life, said the quake was ''by far the most severe I've ever felt.''

''Usually it's a rolling, but this was more of a real jolting,'' he said. ''My wife and kids were screaming. It was quite upsetting.''

He said his two-story house in nearby Browns Valley sustained no major damage.

''There's stuff all over the floor, a lot of cracked plaster. I was relieved it was nothing really costly.''

Numerous homes had chimneys that fell down or leaned following the earthquake.

Alison Saether, who lives two blocks from downtown Napa said plaster fell from her ceiling and she lost power for two hours.

''It was like someone was just holding the house and shaking it violently,'' she said. ''We were so panicked we couldn't even move.''

Despite the jolt, the earthquake was considered small by the USGS, said spokeswoman Pat Jorgenson. The shaking woke people as far south as San Francisco, some 50 miles away.

''It's very rare that there's any structural damage or loss of life in a quake of this magnitude,'' she said. ''Loma Prieta was about 100 times greater.''

The Loma Prieta earthquake, centered 50 miles south of San Francisco in 1989, killed 69 people and caused $6 billion damage.

Sunday's quake happened six miles underground on an unknown fault, Jorgenson said. There already have been two small aftershocks, of magnitudes 1.5 and 1.8, and in the next week, the area could feel as many as 20 small aftershocks, according to the USGS.

Napa police Cmdr. Steve Geoghegan said medical technicians responded to emergencies that appeared to be indirectly related to the quake, including reports of heart trouble.

About 100 customers were without power Sunday afternoon, down from a high of 10,000, according to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman Jonathan Franks.

A handful of people reported gas leaks and PG&E crews checked out those homes and were turning on gas service at homes where people had turned it off, Franks said.

Bunger said Napa area roads were crowded at 2 a.m. ''It looked like commute traffic on a Monday morning,'' he said.

The Napa Valley Marriott hotel in Napa was evacuated for a short time for safety reasons, according to a woman at the front desk. Guests were let back in after the hotel was deemed safe. A few San Francisco Bay area residents cut their long weekends short and went home after the quake, she said.


On the Net:

United States Geological Survey: http://quake.wr.usgs.gov


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