6.5 Northern Calif. quake leaves jumble of debris

January 10, 2010 7:48:22 PM PST
It has been a cleanup day on California's north coast, where a 6.5 earthquake hit about 20 miles offshore late Saturday afternoon. Surprisingly, there is little major damage and few injuries.

The emergency room was busy dealing with cuts and bumps, but the most serious injury was a broken hip following Saturday's earthquake.

Authorities are still assessing damage -- the city of Eureka estimates about $12.5 million in damage so far, a number that could certainly change. The county does not yet have a figure.

The earthquake certainly created a mess.

Humboldt County has had a busy day of cleaning up. Store aisles are full of product -- the shelves are just about empty. And a bulk of what fell broke.

"I came in this morning and it is a mess, broken pottery everywhere," Joan Katri of the Co-op Art Gallery said.

Surveillance video from a grocery store in Arcata shows swinging light fixtures and everyone rushing for the door. No major injuries or damage has been reported, leaving everyone talking about the clean up and where they were when it happened.

"I was standing right here at the counter whenever it hit and I had two customers here with me and we were just having a conversation; it started to shake a little bit, shake a little bit more, then it really started shaking and stuff started flying and that point we just hung on," Valley Lumber owner Troy Land said.

Most of the structural damage is in Ferndale and Eureka. Three commercial buildings have been red tagged.

"There was also an apartment building last night that was evacuated in the city of Eureka that was evacuated as a precautionary measure and those folks were relocated by the Red Cross," Humboldt County spokesperson Phillip Smith-Hanes said.

Seismologists say the reason the quake did not do more damage is because it was located so far offshore and so deep below the ocean's surface. County officials have another theory.

"We came through this quake very well because we live earthquake country and our people have prepared and experiences like we had in 1992 led to lot of retrofitting and it has paid off," Smith-Hanes said.

The quake knocked out power for about 25,000 customers but it was restored by Sunday afternoon. Mudslides blocked some county roads but they were cleared.

The area is still watching for damage -- for buildings that could yet shift or tumble-- but at this point, officials are feeling quite relieved.