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6.1 Magnitude Quake Rocks California

Aired August 24, 2014 - 08:30   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: All right, breaking news out of California this morning. A 6.1 magnitude earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area. The quake's epicenter only six miles south of Napa, makes it 51 miles from Sacramento, but according to the U.S. Geological Survey, this is the largest quake to hit the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta earthquake back in 1989.

What you're looking at here are some of the pictures our viewers have been sending in to us of what they're dealing with, after this quake today. Let's put this into perspective. That Loma Prieta quake had a magnitude of 6.9. This morning, a 6.1. Still very early out there, 5:33, so far no immediate reports of injuries, but the USGS estimates more than 100,000 people experienced quote, "very strong shaking".

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray, you've been talking to some people in the Bay Area this morning. What are they telling you?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I've seen just some reports from former co-workers who are saying that some of the buildings in the downtown area of Napa total loss, just as you've seen, also the buildings -- houses on fire, we've also seen, you know, the water mains busted. It's just been a mess across a lot of these neighborhoods.

We're seeing pictures right there -- there's one of those homes on fire, and so a lot of cleanup going on. These brick buildings -- a lot of these older buildings in some of these downtown areas, structural damage, a lot of these stores as you're seeing there, inside you can see wine bottles just completely broken on the floor just total disaster inside. Not only in the stores but people's homes, very similar scenes like you're seeing there, things off the shelves, in people's kitchens, living rooms, seeing messy situation.

Of course like you said, over 100,000 people felt very, very strong shaking with this being the strongest earthquake felt in about 25 years, so a lot of people waking up this morning very, very scared.

So break it down for you, of course, 3:20 this morning magnitude of 6.1, the depth was 6.7 miles, six miles south-southwest of Napa. No tsunami watches or warnings were ever issued which is good news there. And when you break it down with the magnitude and class being a 6.1, that is considered a strong earthquake, and so Christi, a lot more will be assessed, you know, as the sun comes up. It's still very early over on the West Coast.

PAUL: Absolutely. In fact Craig Chan tweeted to me. He said, "I'm in San Francisco and it woke me up. I was here in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, thought this might be the big one."

Craig is on the phone with us now. Craig, thank you so much for giving us some perspective from where you are. What made you think this was the big one?

CRAIG CHAN, RESIDENT (via telephone): Well, to me, I've lived here all my life in San Francisco and when I feel anything that goes past ten seconds it really makes you kind of think that this might be the one, so you know, I just had to be prepared about it and you never know when it's going to happen. So you know, just very jarring to have something like that at 3:00 in the morning kind of wake you up.

PAUL: Sure, sure. So it was the duration of this that surprised you?

CHAN: Oh, absolutely. The duration and the feeling was kind of like very kind of slow and steady rolling, then all of a sudden it just stopped. I got out of my apartment and kind of walked down the hallway to check on a few people that lived in the building and make sure everything was ok, and there weren't any major incidents so we're very lucky.

PAUL: Ok, so everybody in your building is ok?

CHAN: Correct, yes.

PAUL: Ok. What kind of damage, do you have any damage in your apartment?

CHAN: I didn't have anything fall down in my apartment, and of course, it's not daylight yet, so I can't do anything in terms of checking the exterior of the building yet but that's certainly something we'll do once, you know, 7:00 or 8:00 this morning.

PAUL: I think you're one of the people that described it and I know you're in the Rushing Hills area, as something that I think you said it felt like a long rolling movement versus a short one. Is that right, like short jolts?

CHAN: Correct.

PAUL: You've felt both then obviously?

CHAN: Yes, a little bit of a jolt and then that's when the building started to make a little bit of creaking sound and that's when I started getting a little concerned.

PAUL: What you're seeing now here, I just want to tell our viewers real quickly, that is a buckled road in Napa. But what's interesting to me too, Craig, is that you were in the '89 quake.

What do you remember from that one? CHAN: Just that I've retold the stories to people that visit San

Francisco and they asked about that earthquake and that earthquake there was like this sense of a rolling energy that kind of rode through the neighborhood and it almost sounded like there's a freight train coming down the street where there's no freight train tracks at all and it wasn't an energy pass. It was like a wave of energy and I had -- living in the Richmond District in San Francisco and my back window there was a neighbor's building I could see and at one point my building was moving so much I could see the chimney and the window, then I couldn't see it and I could see it again and then couldn't see it and the next time I saw it in my window, all the bricks came down on the side of the house.

So that was just so violent, and the energy that went through and you know, history has shown what happened out in the marina. The photos I see online and on the newscast right now in Napa, in downtown, with all the brick buildings. We had something that happened in our south market area that did the same exact damage. So we're really lucky here, very lucky here.

PAUL: Yes. I was going to say. We're just grateful that you're all ok, and thank you so much for sharing with us your experiences and your thoughts here, and as we look at some of these pictures, but best of luck to you; certainly thoughts and prayers to all of you out there in that area.

We're going to take a quick break here. We have more pictures, more people to talk to of the 6.1 magnitude earthquake near Napa, the largest in the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta earthquake back in 1989.

Stay close.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an earthquake. It's an earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an earthquake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A strong earthquake.


PAUL: If you've never been through an earthquake you're getting a sense of what it is like now from the Freking family, this in-home security camera that caught what happened, just about two hours ago, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake in California, six miles south of Napa -- the largest quake to hit the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta earthquake back in 1989.

And we are now getting word that there are some people there in Napa trapped. Let's get Janet Upton from the California Fire Department PIO; Janet, thank you so much for being with us. What can you tell us about these people that are trapped? JANET UPTON, PIO, CALIFORNIA FIRE DEPARTMENT: Well, I can tell

you personally to set the record straight first of all, actually I was involved in the earthquake and a resident of Napa myself. I haven't been out responding to a lot of the other area other than my neighborhood. And I can tell you that my neighborhood, chimneys have fallen, appliances fallen over, houses are, you know, several thousand dollar damage in terms of the contents. Still the quake happened just before 3:30 a.m. and it was strongly felt, from what I'm understanding, about five or six miles from the epicenter, which reported west of the Napa airport. So it of course woke everyone up and we of course, you know, the neighborhood came together, turned off all the gas lines but listening to the response radio, there have been silence going basically for the last two hours, checking on people, reports of minor entrapments downtown Napa seems to have suffered some damage in terms of reports of the front of houses, you know, falling away from the structure, that sort of thing.

PAUL: Ok, when you say -- we're glad you're ok, first of all, let me get that out there, Janet, and glad everybody in your neighborhood is as well. When you say minor entrapment, do you have any indication how many people you're talking about? Was it residential?

UPTON: Downtown is a mix of residential and commercial, and listening to the radio traffic again, the engines have responded, one of the protocols we do in the fire service when the fire service and the fire department has been involved in an earthquake like this, immediately the personnel at the station remove the apparatus that fire engines, fire trucks out from the garage so that if there's an aftershock, that they're not trapped and they're able to respond and help people, and I can tell you that our Greenwood Ranch, Napa County Cal Fire Station immediately was responding the moment the earthquake stopped.

And they've been running for a couple of hours as have the other Napa city and other surrounding cal fire departments, checking on people, turning off gas, there was a very strong smell of gas in the neighborhood, but we finally, that's dissipated. We have all of the gas mains are shut off here because when an earthquake occurs, it's the aftermath, the gas leaks and the subsequent fires that are very concerning to responders.

PAUL: Yes, we actually had a picture, I don't know if we can pull it up, of the house somebody sent me via social media, that was on fire, she said --

UPTON: Hang on, I got to let you go. We're having a little bit of an aftershock.

PAUL: You're having an aftershock right now?

UPTON: There it goes, we're good. We just had a little aftershock.

PAUL: Are you ok?

UPTON: I'm fine, I'm just going to get away from the window here.

PAUL: Get away from the window, make sure everybody's ok.

UPTON: Yes, it stopped for the moment but I'm going to let you go if that happens again.

PAUL: Ok, I understand certainly. I wanted to ask you, you were talking about that strong smell of gas and how concerned obviously, how concerning that is. We did see this picture that we're looking at here right now on the screen that somebody sent me from Napa of a house that is on fire. Have you heard of many instances of this happening so far this morning?

UPTON: I can tell you, I just spoke to the person in charge of our command center and he reported that there were a couple of structure fires at the north end of town. Right now the sirens seem to have slowed down, but I can tell you the moment after the earthquake happened until a short time ago, the sirens were loud and followed for two hours.

Hang on one second. I have to let you go because this is an operational phone line so I have to let you go.

PAUL: Ok, I understand, we'll get back to you but do take good care, everybody take care of themselves there. We appreciate you getting back to us.

Boy, what a scene she paints for us, loud and constant sirens all morning for the last two hours, as this quake hit six miles south of Napa, and those people in Napa really feeling the brunt of it. A rolling sensation, they said, rolling, long movements versus short ones is what was felt in the San Francisco Bay Area, about 50 miles away or even 25 miles away in some areas.

Walter Hayes, world renowned seismologist, is on the phone with us right now. Mr. Hayes, thank you for being with us. When you heard about this 6.1 magnitude quake in California, what was your first thought?

WALTER HAYES, WORLD RENOWNED SEISMOLOGIST: California's been overdue for such an earthquake for quite a while, so it's not a big surprise in the statistical sense.

PAUL: You know, you are the third or fourth person this morning who said California has been overdue. How often would you anticipate an earthquake there?

HAYES: The statistic is every ten years you'll have three of this size. We have not had three of this size in the last ten years. It's been since 1994, the North Ridge earthquake, that we really had a significant earthquake in California so, that's the reason people say it's overdue.

PAUL: What kind of aftershocks do you think they should expect? While we were there, we were on the phone with Janet Upton and she was feeling one as we spoke. HAYES: Kind of the rule of thumb if it's a magnitude 6.1, you'll

have ten 5.1s, not exactly ten but the range of ten, 100 4.1s, so you can have a lot of shaking going on. Now the 4.1s and 5.1s are not that damaging unless they're very close but they can really be disconcerting.

PAUL: Walter, what would you -- what is your assessment of maybe the next big quake in California? We had one gentleman who said he thought this was it, when it started.

HAYES: Well, they always feel that way when they start, and if they're shallow, like this one probably is I'm not certain of that, but it sounds like it may have been shallow, then they always seem stronger. Like we had a little magnitude five-point something in Virginia two years ago yesterday and it damaged the Washington Monument. It was shallow, very shallow.

PAUL: I was looking at the history of some earthquakes, and I have a history here that in August of this year, a few weeks ago, there was an earthquake that hit China's Yunnan Province, killed 589 people, injured more than 2,400, and according to the USGS, they gauged that quake at what this one was at 6.1.

Thank goodness we have heard of no injuries or deaths in this, although as you heard from Janet Upton there, there were some, they believe, some people that are trapped. She called it minor entrapment. Do you -- is California built to withstand most of these earthquakes?

HAYES: California is the leader in the world in terms of earthquake protection. That's the building code that protects the buildings, not the houses so much, but the buildings, and then the other good luck thing for the United States, compared to other countries is, we build out of wood, and wood is very forgiving, whereas concrete is not forgiving. But it takes real engineering know-how to make the concrete, reinforced concrete be earthquake- resistant. That's the reason we are so lucky.

PAUL: We're so lucky. All right, Walter Hayes, world renowned seismologist we appreciate you taking time with us this morning. Thank you so much.

HAYES: My pleasure indeed.

PAUL: And so you're looking at pictures, some of the pictures we're getting from San Francisco Bay Area from Napa area. You just heard a spokesman from the Cal Fire Department in Napa mentioning that there were a couple structure fires in the northern part of Napa; and here a picture of bricks from a building just crumbling.

Again, we are about two and a half hours into the recovery, I will say, from this 6.1 magnitude quake. We're going to be talking to more people and have some more pictures for you on the other side of the break.

Do stay close. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: About two and a half hours ago there was a 6.1 earthquake in California, about six miles south of Napa, and these are some of the latest pictures we're getting in of it. There is damage reported, some buildings down, minor entrapment in Napa there, according to a spokesman for the Cal Fire there in Napa. Strong smell of gas, she reported initially after, but they have turned off gas lines there.

We have pictures of a couple of buildings, as I said, that are on fire, and that sirens had been loud and constant there in Napa for the last two and a half hours. This is a storefront here that obviously was very damaged.

Adam Sure is a PIO of the San Francisco police. We have heard from a lot of people in San Francisco this morning especially via social media. Some saying they thought this was the big one. Adam, what kind of calls are you getting right now? Any damage? Any injuries?

ADAM SURE: Yes, good morning, well, because of the early morning, it was so early in the morning, most people were at their homes when it happened, and what we believe is that this was a rumbling from Howard Stern's butt crack.

PAUL: All right. Obviously that is not who we expected it was to be. We apologize for that so early in the morning. But I do want to keep on this, because the fact of the matter is, this is a serious situation. So we don't need any jokes going on right now, because we've got people who may be trapped in Napa.

These are some pictures of some folks in Hercules, California, here, the Freking Family who so graciously shared their video from their in-home security camera with us, talking about what it was like for them, the chandelier was swinging, glass has been breaking. It has been frightening for these people. We even heard of people their pets going under the bed and not coming out. You can imagine how frightening it is for them.

We have not heard of any reports of specific injuries, as we know, that things are in process there in Napa with those sirens. We do know that the spokesman for the Cal Fire told us there was an immediate response and they've been going at it since then.

We will continue to keep you posted.

We're going to get you to Candy Crowley right now.