Northern California earthquake huge, but packed a light punch

The large 6.9 magnitude earthquake that rattled Northern California on Sunday was the state's largest earthquake in nearly a decade. But it caused no damage or injuries.

That's because the quake was centered 50 miles off the coast of Eureka and occurred at a depth of "10 miles beneath the Pacific seabed," according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

By the time the waves reach the shore, they had dissipated significantly. The USGS said the north coast felt only moderate to light shaking.

By contrast, 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.


The temblor, which struck less than 55 miles from McKinleyville, Fortuna, Eureka and Ferndale, was followed by at least 13 aftershocks as large as magnitude 4.6, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Sgt. Brian Stephens of the Eureka Police Department said as of about 6:15 a.m. Monday that "we have not had one report of damage anywhere in the city."

"Definitely a change from the last one we had," Stephens said, referring to the magnitude 6.5 earthquake that rocked Eureka in January 2010. "This one was the exact same magnitude almost ... This was a roller and the other was more or less a violent shaking."

Stephens said it was his understanding the quake Sunday night, which hit at 10:18 p.m., lasted as long as 38 seconds.

"It was definitely a long one," he said.

Stephens was out on a call when the quake struck and said his "car was rocking back and forth."

"I thought someone was shoving my car back and forth, looked around and nobody was there. Then I realized what was happening."

There were also no immediate reports of damage or injury anywhere else in Humboldt County and no tsunami warnings were immediately issued overnight.

A resident of Ferndale, 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," she said. "It almost felt like you were in a boat that was rocking."