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Earthquake, Aftershocks Shake Northern California


At least 80 people were injured this morning when an earthquake hit Northern California. The epicenter was in the Napa County town of American Canyon. The quake set of significant fires, including one at a mobile home park in Napa. At least four homes were destroyed, others were damaged. Today's earthquake, which was a magnitude of at least 6.0, was the largest to hit the bay area since the Loma Prieta quake in 1989. Craig Miller of member station KQED is in Napa. Welcome. Thank you for doing this.

CRAIG MILLER, BYLINE: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: How bad is the damage where you are?

MILLER: Well, even though the actual epicenter of this quake was about seven miles from here, I think it's safe to say that ground zero for the most serious damage was here in downtown Napa, particularly in the historic district. For example, the 19th century county courthouse, which still functions, by the way, as a courthouse - the entire upper northeast of the corner of the building literally fell off into a heap of bricks on the sidewalk below. And several other buildings within that same old, Napa downtown area suffered similar fates unfortunately.

WERTHEIMER: We're seeing reports of significant power outages. Has anybody been able to get control of that?

MILLER: Yeah. The power outages have been sporadic. There are a lot of stop lights that are out. So far, people are managing that pretty well, though. There is one section of highway, I'm told by a geologist, not far from here where there was actually one foot of vertical displacement. This is right along the fault line where this occurred, meaning that the pavement on one side of the fault is not one foot higher than on the other side, which that's a significant amount of uplift or displacement for any earthquake.

WERTHEIMER: What about aftershocks? Has that started yet? Or does that come later?

MILLER: We've had a few. Some in the 3-point range, which is significantly smaller than what jolted us all out of bed at 3:20 this morning. Geologists at the U.S. Geological Survey say that we can expect aftershocks for the next several days, probably several in the 3.0-range and possibly as big as 5.0. That's still significantly smaller than what happened this morning. I think it's clear that we haven't seen this kind of damage in the bay area since the Loma Prieta quake. But it's also important to point out that it's much more confined. I mean, Loma Prieta created damage widespread across Northern California, whereas the worst of the damage in this one seems to be relatively confined to cities like Napa and Vallejo a few miles to the south.

WERTHEIMER: I assume California communities are well prepared for earthquakes. Are your folks handling it out there?

MILLER: I talked to...

WERTHEIMER: Very quickly.

MILLER: ...Officials this morning, including a county supervisor here in Napa, who said there were concerns about the county administrative building, which is right across the street from the old courthouse that was damaged. There was enough concern so that they relocated the emergency command center to the Sherriff's Department, which is several miles south near the airport.


MILLER: The building - yes.

WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much for doing this.

MILLER: You're welcome.

WERTHEIMER: Craig Miller of member station KQED. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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