Magnitude 6.4 earthquake rocks parts of Northern California; 70,000 power outages reported
Natalie Neysa Alund - USA TODAY
A preliminary magnitude 6.4 earthquake rocked Northern California early Tuesday morning, jolting residents awake, damaging infrastructure, and cutting off power to thousands of homes and businesses.
Officials reported at least two people suffered injuries in the quake that caused damages to buildings and roads around Humboldt County, located about 250 miles north of San Francisco.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at 2:34 a.m. PT in Pacific Ocean waters about 7.5 miles west of Ferndale at a depth of just over 16 miles. The city is about 19 miles south of Eureka, near the California and Oregon state line.
The USGS warned of "many" aftershock earthquakes coming in the wake of the 6.4 magnitude shake, including some that could reach magnitude 4. More than two dozen aftershocks were recorded on the USGS website, most of which were less than magnitude 4.
As of early Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service's tsunami warning system reported there was no tsunami threat associated with the quake, which was the strongest earthquake the area has seen in years.
"Check gas and water lines for damages or leaks. Exercise caution if traveling," the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services tweeted just after 6:30 a.m. PT.
'Widespread damages to roads and homes'
The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office announced reports of damage to homes and roads throughout the county, which has a population of about 136,000 people, but authorities subsequently indicated that damage was less than what might be expected from the size of the temblor.
Two injuries were reported but both people were expected to recover, sheriff’s information specialist Samantha Karges told the Associated Press.
As of about 8:10 a.m. PT, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. reported tens of thousands of customers without power in the area. In Humboldt County alone, where Ferndale is located, more than 71,000 people were in the dark.
Some gas leaks were also reported.
A photo posted online by the California Department of Transportation showed State Route 211 which connects Ferndale with U.S. 101 buckled from the quake. The Ferndale Fire Department reported other roads were also closed in the area due to damage including Blue Slide Road, which runs parallel to U.S. 101, a major north – south highway, stretching from Los Angeles to Washington state.
Residents also shared photos of damage sustained to homes.
"Our home is a 140-year-old Victorian," Ferndale resident Caroline Titus posted on Twitter. "The north/south shaking is very evident in what fell. This was our coffee station. Sorry for dark video. Power still out."
Earthquake among strongest in recent memory
Tuesday's 6.4 magnitude earthquake could be the most significant to hit California since July 2019, when a 7.1 magnitude quake hit the Ridgecrest area in Southern California, according to the state Department of Conservation. A 6.5 magnitude quake was recorded about 100 miles offshore near Ferndale in 2016.
The earthquake came just days after a small magnitude 3.6 earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area, waking up thousands of people at 3:39 a.m. Saturday and causing minor damage.
That earthquake was centered in El Cerrito, about a 16-mile drive to downtown San Francisco.
It also comes on the heels of a magnitude5.1 earthquake rattling the San Francisco Bay Area in late October. No one was injured in the natural disaster. The quake happened on the Calaveras Fault, one of eight major faults in the Bay Area and a branch of the San Andreas Fault line.
Tuesday's early morning quake was the largest the area had experienced in years, according to USGS data. The last notable quake was a6.2 magnitude earthquake that struck offshore in the Cape Mendocino area of Northern California in December 2021.
That earthquake was centered off the coast about 210 miles northwest of San Francisco, just off a tiny town called Petrolia that’s home to fewer than 1,000 people.
What was the biggest earthquake in US history?
The biggest earthquake in modern history took place on March 27, 1964 when an earthquake of magnitude 9.2 took place in the Prince William Sound region of Alaska.
According to the USGS, the quake rupture started approximately 15.5 miles beneath the surface, with its epicenter about 6 miles east of the mouth of College Fiord and 75 miles east of Anchorage.
The earthquake lasted some 4.5 minutes and is the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. history. It is also the second largest earthquake ever recorded, next to the magnitude 9.5 earthquake in Chile in 1960.