6.9 Northern California earthquake followed by aftershocks

By Shelby Grad and Richie Duchon
Los Angeles Times

The magnitude 6.9 earthquake off the coast of Northern California on Sunday night was the largest on the West Coast since the 7.2 Baja California quake in 2010.

Sunday’s temblor was followed by a series of at least 13 aftershocks as large as a magnitude 4.6, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The big quake occurred at 10:18 p.m. 50 miles west of Eureka in Humboldt County in the Pacific Ocean. The USGS put the depth of the quake at about four miles.

Several of the aftershocks were much closer to land, including one about 16 miles off the coast that registered as a magnitude 3.4.

Eureka Police Department Sgt. Brian Stephens said there had been no reports of significant damage or injuries. “My car was rocking back and forth,” Stephens, who was on out on a call when the earthquake hit, told The Times. “I thought someone was shoving my car back and forth, looked around and nobody was there. Then I realized what was happening.”

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department also said it had no reports of injuries.

A resident of Ferndale near Eureka, Raquel Maytorena, 52, felt the earthquake in her nearly 100-year-old home about a mile from the coast. “It just kept going and going, very slowly and softly. It was not violent. It almost felt like you were in a boat that was rocking,” she said.

Maytorena, who said she was living in San Jose during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, said this temblor “lasted longer than any earthquake I’ve ever felt.”

She felt a little rattling, but nothing fell off the shelves and the power remained on without any interruptions. Maytorena also felt several aftershocks. Her 16-year-old daughter said she felt a smaller foreshock earlier in the day Sunday.

“The animals, they felt it,” Maytorena added. “My two horses were running around out by the barn, and my dogs, six dogs, were ready to get out of the house.”

Mike Meltzer of Ferndale told KTVU-TV that the quake lasted for 10 seconds.

“I’ve been through a number of these,” he said. “It wasn’t a jolter; it was a wave.”

The USGS classified the shaking on land as “light to moderate.”

No tsunami warnings were issued.

The Eureka area is considered seismically active, and there have been similar-sized quakes in the area with some regularity.

A 6.5 quake hit the area in 2010, snapping power lines, toppling chimneys, knocking down traffic signals, shattering windows and prompting the evacuation of at least one apartment building.

In 1964, an 8.8 earthquake in Alaska caused catastrophic damage on the North Coast.

The March 28 tsunami killed 11 in Crescent City, Calif., and destroyed the city’s business district. Accounts from the time reported that fuel tanks erupted in flames while cars and trucks washed down city streets, pilling up against buildings.

By California standards, Sunday’s quake was large. Two larger recent quakes occurred in remote areas: the 1999 Hector Mines temblor, magnitude 7.1, and the 1992 Landers quake, which was magnitude 7.3.

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