EUREKA, Calif. (AP) — Government employees, engineers, volunteers and home and business owners were out examining everything from bridges to office buildings across Northern California’s Humboldt County on Monday, checking for damage caused by a weekend earthquake.
Residents also swapped stories about enduring the magnitude-6.5 quake, centered in the Pacific Ocean about 22 miles west of Ferndale.
In Eureka, the largest city affected by Saturday’s temblor, a city inspector posted a red tag outside a home that had shifted off its foundation and dropped 3 feet into the crawl space below, forcing its owners to stay with friends.
The tag indicated that the single-family, wood-frame home was uninhabitable. Yellow tags elsewhere meant buildings were damaged but inhabitants could stay put.
Citywide, the damage estimate climbed to $14.3 million for 175 buildings, up from $12.5 million for 119 buildings the day before, city spokesman Gary Bird said.
Officials said it might be several days before they have a total damage estimate for all the areas of the county affected by the quake.
“All it is, is educated guesses right now,” said Dan Larkin, a spokesman for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department Office of Emergency Services.
Larkin said the county was surveying its own property for damage and asking the public to report any damage to private property. State officials also arrived Monday to help with the assessment.
“This is not a catastrophic event,” Larkin said. “Certainly, there was some extensive damage to individual sites. Like normal 6.8 earthquakes, the damage is sporadic.”
In Eureka, some residents were already starting to repair damages to their property, which included gas leaks and broken windows. Many dropped by home improvement stores like the Pierson Building Center, where the parking lot was full.
“We’re definitely busier than we usually are,” said David Wallaker, a clerk at the store. “We’re doing a lot of plumbing, electrical, water heaters.”
The earthquake sent about 30 people to emergency rooms, but only one was seriously injured — an elderly person who fell and suffered a broken hip. Power outages were widespread, affecting about 36,000 customers initially, but a quick response restored electricity to all by early Sunday, said Janna Morris, a spokeswoman for Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
Theresa Brady, who lived at the home that dropped into its crawl space, left to go shopping with her son Connor about 15 minutes before the quake hit.
She said it’s a good thing 12-year-old Connor decided to come along, instead of staying home in the front room with the family’s large turtle tank, which collapsed and broke in the quake.
“It would have hit Connor, because he sits in that room and plays video games,” she said.
She said the home, which was over 100 years old, “is a disaster.”
“When you go into my house, you feel you’re on acid or something because everything is crooked,” said Brady, 54, who works at Costco with her 56-year-old husband, Dave. “My walls are coming apart.”
Dave Brady was at work when the quake hit.
The family is staying with friends while they look for a house to rent. They’re also trying to get emergency aid and have set up a bank account and Facebook page to collect donations.
About 20 miles south of Eureka, volunteers helped sweep up broken glass artwork and figurines at the gallery at The Blacksmith Shop in historic downtown Ferndale.
The shop’s owner, 72-year-old Joseph Koches, was at work when the quake hit. He said he dropped to the floor and crawled to a doorway that he reinforced with iron after a 1992 earthquake.
Koches estimates he lost at least 150 pieces of glass artwork in the quake. He said his overall damages, which also includes broken windows and a display case, will likely be between $25,000 and $35,000.
“This was 150 pieces of glass going up in the air and falling and breaking and glass cases going over,” Koches said. “If you can imagine some giant coming along and picking up your building and shaking it. And you have no control. Things just start coming down around your ears.”
Meanwhile, Eureka city spokesman Bird said a chemical that spilled from a shelf at the Eureka campus of College of the Redwoods, which prompted the dispatching of a hazardous materials team, was a harmless alcohol-based preservative that dried up on its own.
“It did not mix with other chemicals,” he said. “The team determined there was no danger to human health.”