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6.2 earthquake strikes off Northern California coast, shattering windows and rattling nerves

A map shows where an earthquake hit near Eureka.
(U.S. Geological Survey)

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake that struck Monday off the coast of Northern California sent some residents scrambling for cover as windows shattered and household items crashed onto the floor.

The quake, which hit shortly after noon, was 37 miles from Eureka, Calif., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS initially reported it as a magnitude 5.8, before it was upgraded a short time later.

Shaking was felt as far south as the Bay Area, the USGS website showed.

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There were no reports of major damage or injuries, although images on social media showed shattered windows at a building in downtown Ferndale.

Windows at a number of businesses in Rio Dell also were damaged during the quake, Mayor Debra Garnes said.

Residents felt intense shaking throughout the city, which is about 25 miles south of Eureka, Garnes said.

When the quake struck, she was at home with her spouse, a friend and the family dog. All four crouched beneath a small, round dining table to take shelter.

Garnes said she felt and heard objects from the house flying out from cabinets and off walls before clanking and shattering on the floor.

“When it felt like the house was going to go, it did,” she said. “It sounded like a freight train.”

California’s North Coast is a seismically active area that gets significant quakes, such as the one that struck Monday. Yet despite the temblor’s magnitude, the National Weather Service’s Tsunami Warning Center said in a tweet that no tsunami was expected from the quake.

That’s because it originated in a transform fault, according to earthquake expert Lucy Jones.

Jones, a research associate at Caltech’s seismological lab, said the quake struck in the Mendocino fracture zone, just offshore from Cape Mendocino in Humboldt County. It occurred in a type of fault in which tectonic plates move sideways, and when that occurs beneath the ocean’s surface, little water is displaced, negating the chance of a tsunami, Jones said. Earthquakes that shake vertically can lead to tsunami warnings, she said.

People are much more important than kits. People will help each other when the power is out or they are thirsty. And people will help a community rebuild and keep Southern California a place we all want to live after a major quake.

James Kicklighter, a film director who lives in Los Angeles, was on a family trip across California and had made a stop in Eureka for lunch when the quake struck.

As he pulled into a restaurant’s parking lot, Kicklighter received an alert from the state’s MyShake app. Kicklighter parked the car, and 15 seconds later, he and his husband, mom, stepdad and aunt watched as the pavement wobbled and the trees and buildings swayed.

“It felt like the earthquake in the tram ride in Universal Studios,” Kicklighter said.

He said he found the app especially helpful for his parents, who are disabled and use canes to walk. The warning allowed them to avoid any potential falls from the shaking.

State officials were beginning to evaluate damage to roads, bridges, medical facilities and other infrastructure, according to a statement by Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The MyShake app worked as designed, with notifications reaching more than 2,500 people before shaking started, Ghilarducci said. Many app users received at least 15 seconds of warning.

“It is important for all those in the region to remain vigilant, however, as sizable aftershocks will occur along the North Coast over the next few days,” he said. “Please listen for alerts and heed evacuation notices or requests from local officials.”

The USGS reported a cluster of aftershocks in Ferndale, Petrolia and Rio Dell in the hours after the 6.2 quake. Garnes said she received reports from the government agency of at least 25 aftershocks by midafternoon, ranging from magnitude 2.6 to 4.5.

The main quake scattered Christmas decorations, plants, paintings and photos, which had toppled from shelves at her home. Shards from broken cups and stained-glass windows littered the ground like discarded jewels. Their refrigerator moved about three inches from its spot against the kitchen wall.

Garnes worked to sweep away the glass bits and clean up other damage, but every time another aftershock hit, she would dive back under the table.

“We’re all just bracing for the next one ‘cause they’ve been happening every minute or so,” Garnes said. “It’s just been very unsettling, to say the least.”

Times staff writer Gregory Yee contributed to this report.


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