The 6.0 magnitude quake that woke the placid wine town of Napa at 3:20 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2014 was the strongest quake to hit the San Francisco Bay area in a quarter-century. It killed one person and injured 200 as bricks and furniture – and wine bottles – toppled onto sleeping families. One year later, the signs of lingering damage are minimal – a wobbly winery building here, a shrouded, Victorian-era downtown facade awaiting repairs there.
Some of the lessons and memories to come out of the quake are more lasting, however. The Associated Press talked to a seismologist, a city leader and a historic wine family about key things to know about the Napa quake, one year on.
THE NAPA QUAKE WAS UNUSUALLY ROBUST FOR ITS MAGNITUDE
Earthquake experts call the Napa quake “the little quake that could,” said David Schwartz, a Bay Area seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Cracking the earth for nearly 8 miles, the quake caused the longest, most complex rupture of the surface of any earthquake of its size, among other unusual movement. “It really kind of stands out, sort of, on the spectrum,” Schwartz said.
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EMERGING QUAKE TECHNOLOGY GOT A WORKOUT
An earthquake early-warning system in the San Francisco area, though still incomplete, picked up the shaking in Napa several seconds in advance – enough warning to have given other Bay Area residents time to duck and cover, if they had needed to, Schwartz said. Other new technology came into play as seismologists studied the quake afterward. Scientists used laser imagery, radar imagery and drones to help gather data on the quake site. Smartphones, which developed since the last major quake here, let them share information in real time from the field.
ABOUT $500 MILLION IN PROPERTY DAMAGE TO NAPA, BUT A WINERY TOWN COPED
At Napa’s Trefethen Winery, Hailey Trefethen’s family and their employees are running their tasting room out of a tent – the quake knocked the 1886, old-growth redwood building that housed their old tasting room 4 feet off-center. It’s one of a handful of damaged buildings still evident in Napa a year after the shaking. Getting the landmark Napa winery building back on center and steady will take about another year, said Hailey Trefethen, who’s helping oversee repairs at the family winery. “We will be very excited to have a party when everything is done,” she said.
ADVICE FROM NAPA’S MAYOR ON THE NEXT BAY AREA QUAKE
Napa’s quake emphasized that outsides of buildings have to be strengthened along with the insides, Napa Mayor Jill Techel said. Old buildings stood up, but the masonry falling off their facade could have hurt more people, if the quake had hit during the day, Techel said. Other lessons from Napa’s mayor – in the first hours after a disaster, smartphones have become people’s main source of information, and impromptu flashlights.
THE QUAKE DREW A CLOSE COMMUNITY CLOSER
In the first morning after the quake, some Napa restaurants set up tables on the sidewalks to hand out free food and coffee as long as they lasted. In some neighborhoods, residents ran extension cords and garden hoses across streets to supply neighbors who lost electricity or water. “Even today, if I ask people about the earthquake and their experience, they will say it brought people together,” Techel said. “Even in the dark figuring out their next steps,” people started helping each other, she said.