California’s famed Emerald Triangle cannabis-growing region was rocked by an earthquake early Tuesday morning, leading to the deaths of two local residents and leaving tens of thousands of people without electricity. The earthquake, which registered 6.4 on the Richter scale, also caused about a dozen injuries and damaged homes and businesses in the region.
The ground started shaking at 2:34 a.m., with the temblor centered near the town of Ferndale, a community about 210 miles northwest of San Francisco in Humboldt County. The epicenter of the quake was offshore, about 10 miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
Humboldt County, along with neighboring Trinity and Mendocino Counties, make up California’s infamous Emerald Triangle, where for decades cannabis farmers have grown top-shelf marijuana famous around the world. Johnny Casali of Huckleberry Hills Farm reported that his legacy cannabis operation in southern Humboldt County lost electricity during the power outage but did not suffer any damage from the shaking. Chris Anderson of Redwood Roots said that southern Humboldt County was not hit very hard by the quake, but he had heard reports of broken water mains and homes being knocked off their foundations in the central part of the county.
More Than 70,000 Lose Power
Damage to buildings and infrastructure is still being assessed throughout the region. Approximately 72,000 Pacific Gas and Electric customers reportedly lost power as a result of the earthquake. By late Tuesday, the utility company had restored power to about 40,000 customers and expected electrical service would be restored for the remaining homes and businesses without power within 24 hours. The outage involved a main transmission line into the area and repairs were slowed by rain that prevented a helicopter from assessing damage sustained by the line.
In a news flash, the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services reported that “two individuals have died as a result of medical emergencies occurring during and/or just following the earthquake.” The dead include an 83-year-old and a 72-year-old, according to media reports. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office reported that at least 11 people were injured during the quake. Injuries sustained in the temblor included a hip fracture and a head injury, according to media reports.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Humboldt County on Tuesday evening. Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, noted that two hospitals in the area had lost power but were running on generators. Ferguson also said that damage in the area appeared to be minimal considering the strength of the earthquake.
Residents in the Emerald Triangle are used to the relatively frequent earthquakes. But some said that Tuesday’s shaking was more violent than the rolling motion of many of the region’s tremors.
“You could see the floor and walls shaking,” Araceli Huerta told the Associated Press. “It sounded like a freight train was going through my house.”
Rio Dell Bears Brunt Of Temblor
Damage from the quake was reported in Ferndale, Rio Dell and Fortuna, Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said in a press conference in Sacramento. Damage was most extensive in Rio Dell, where at least 15 homes in the community of 3,000 were deemed uninhabitable. Another 18 homes sustained moderate damage, officials reported after a partial assessment of the area. Approximately 30 people have been displaced by the damage, but officials warned that number could climb to as high as 150 after a full assessment of the impact of the earthquake is completed.
Rio Dell’s water system was shut down and will remain out of operation for up to two days while leaks in the vital infrastructure are repaired. The local firehouse was distributing drinking water, and portable toilets were set up outside City Hall for area residents to use.
Local resident Cassondra Stoner said that she was shaken awake by Tuesday’s quake.
“It felt like my roof was coming down,” Stoner said. “The only thing I could think about was, ‘Get the freaking kids.’”
Other than the emotional shock of the early morning quake, Stoner’s family was not harmed. But when she arrived for work at a local retail store, ceiling tiles had fallen, and shelves had toppled over, strewing merchandise across the floor.
The earthquake occurred in an area known as the Mendocino Triple Junction, where three tectonic plates meet off northern California’s Pacific coast.
“We’re in this moment of geologic time where the most exciting, dynamic area of California happens to be Humboldt County and the adjacent offshore area,” Lori Dengler, professor emeritus of geology at Cal Poly Humboldt, told reporters.