At least 2 dead, 11 injured in 6.4 earthquake in far Northern California

The damage to a bridge over the Eel River at Fernbridge in Humboldt County.
(Via Caltrans)

Have something to say? Lookout welcomes letters to the editor, within our policies, from readers. Guidelines here.

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake that rattled Northern California early Tuesday has resulted in at least two deaths from medical emergencies, causing damage across the region and leaving tens of thousands without power in Humboldt County, according to authorities.

The quake was reported at 2:34 a.m. Tuesday about 7½ miles southwest of Ferndale, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. No tsunami was expected, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter, but the agency advised residents to prepare for aftershocks, which continued into the daylight hours, including a 4.6 jolt.

According to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, two individuals have died as a result of medical emergencies occurring during or just following the earthquake, and at least 11 people have sustained injuries.

There was one fatality in Rio Dell during the earthquake, Rio Dell Mayor Debra Garnes, said, but it is unclear if it was related to the tremors.

A call came in during the earthquake about someone having difficulty breathing. The person went into cardiac arrest and medics performed CPR, Garnes said. The person was taken to a hospital but did not survive.

“It was the most intense earthquake that I’ve felt,” Garnes said. “It was a long-duration earthquake, so it was not only significant in size at 6.4, it was also long.”

Samantha Karges, a public information officer with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, said there was also extensive damage to roads and homes. Most of the destruction is in Rio Dell, Fortuna, Ferndale and Scotia in the Eel River Valley. There was one confirmed structure fire in Rio Dell associated with the earthquake that has since been put out, said state Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat who represents Humboldt County.

On social media, some reported that the quake caused furniture to move and items to fall to the floor.

“That was a big one. Power is now out in #ferndaleca. House is a mess,” Ferndale resident Caroline Titus wrote on Twitter, showing broken items in her home.

According to, more than 70,000 people across Humboldt County were without power early Tuesday morning. Pacific Gas & Electric was working to restore power, Karges said, adding that “there is no time available” for when services might come back online.

Several gas leaks were reported, as well as damage to water lines, Karges said. PG&E tweeted that it “initiated its emergency response plan, and crews are responding to gas and electric hazards.”

There were no reports of damage early Tuesday to critical roadway infrastructure, said Sgt. Caleb Carsey with the California Highway Patrol in Humboldt County, who described the earthquake as “pretty violent.”

Fernbridge, a historic Humboldt County landmark built in 1911 on State Route 211, was closed Tuesday because the bridge was cracked in four places, according to a CHP incident log. Pictures on Twitter showed the pavement was fractured in several places. Crews were dispatched for an integrity check, Carsey said.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said on Twitter that it was coordinating with local and tribal governments on damage assessments and support with aid and other resources. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, California Geological Survey and the California Department of Transportation are among the agencies assisting in response efforts.

McGuire said that both state and local emergency systems have so far worked well together in this isolated coastal corner of California. “It’s a remote area of the Golden State,” McGuire said. “All levels of government [are working] together to ensure a rapid response.”

McGuire called Tuesday’s quake “a big one.”

“It is being described as a long, violent shake,” McGuire said. “Individual residents are reporting that entire bookshelves and kitchen cabinets were emptied by the shaking. This was not your typical shaker that Northern California is used to.”

Some residents reported receiving an electronic quake alert on their phone before strong shaking began. “That earthquake was insane ... a good 15-20 seconds of shaking,” one resident said on Twitter.

Jennifer Savage, 53, who lives on the Samoa Peninsula just outside Eureka, said she’s familiar with earthquakes, particularly small rumbles that hardly rouse her from bed. But “this was scary,” she said, adding that she received an alert, but her phone was on “Do Not Disturb” mode. “It was just really a violent shaking, not one of those rolling ones,” Savage said.

Her home was littered with broken glass, mostly from picture frames and cups falling off the walls and shelves. A glass of water on a bedside table wound up drenching her, she said.

“We were up for a while trying to do the best we could cleaning it up in the dark with a flashlight,” Savage said.

A map showing the location of Tuesday's 6.4-magnitude earthquake off Fortuna
(Via U.S. Geological Survey)

The quake struck along the coast south of Eureka in a seismically active part of California. It was felt across the North Coast region, and aftershocks continued as daylight approached Tuesday.

Exactly a year ago, the same area was hit by a magnitude 6.2 quake that shattered windows and caused some damage.

The USGS said the Tuesday earthquake occurred 17 miles from Eureka, 24 miles from Arcata, California, and 30 miles from McKinleyville, California. It was followed by numerous aftershocks.

In the past 10 days, there have been no earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater centered nearby.

An average of five earthquakes with magnitudes between 6.0 and 7.0 occur per year in California and Nevada, according to a recent three year data sample.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


Be the first to know all the big, breaking news in Santa Cruz. Sign up to get Lookout alerts sent straight to your phone here or below.