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Earthquake Off the California Coast

Aired January 10, 2010 - 21:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Randi Kaye here at CNN.

We are following breaking news. A 6.5 magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of northern California. The USGS says it is about 25 miles from the city of Eureka, a coastal city of 26,000 people.

Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is watching the very latest for us -- Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, a 6.5 quake, Randi. That's what we would consider a strong quake. And it can cause damage but likely not widespread major damage.

I want to show you the area that we're talking about off the coast of northern California. This was about 25 miles offshore. So, the worst of the strength of this, you know, would have been felt off the coast. So, that's some good news.

You can see that big orange dot in the middle right there. That was the initial quake, and all these little dots around it, those are what we would call aftershocks. Those all have been minor, 3.8 or so in magnitude.

This is what we call a shake map and that whole area that you can see here around Eureka, down towards Petrolia, is where we felt somewhere between a five and a six. And so, this is where some of the damage is. We've been listening to some scanner reports that there have been some water main breaks. There's also been some gas leaks and some evacuations due to those gas leaks. But most of the damage we expect is going to be in the, you know, minor to moderate at most range.

That's what we know for now. We'll continue to monitor the situation and, of course, watch for more aftershocks and bring you that information -- Randi.

KAYE: All right. Jacqui, thank you.

And we want to talk now with Jessica Stephens Tucker. She's a resident of Fortuna, California.

Jessica, are you with us on the phone? Jessica, do you hear me?


KAYE: OK, great. Tell me what -- you, obviously, felt this earthquake. You're in Fortuna, California. Tell me what you felt.

TUCKER: Actually, it was more of a rolling one than a jolting one. It rolled and it felt like it lasted about eight seconds. It rolled and then we were watching the truck and it was still moving and I said, "I don't think it's over," and then it slammed.

KAYE: So, when you say you're watching the truck, where were you and where was your truck?

TUCKER: We're actually in the living room of our house and the truck was out in the driveway.

KAYE: And so, you got -- you saw it, what, go under the truck or do you actually see your truck move?

TUCKER: Oh, yes. You could see the truck that's shaking back and forth.

KAYE: So, what did you do at that point? Did you brace yourself for something more or what?

TUCKER: Actually, we pretty much got in the doorway and then the children actually ran to the window to see everything and we said get out of the window and then it was over.

KAYE: So, who was in the home with you? How many kids do you have there?

TUCKER: Actually, there were three teenagers here with us.

KAYE: And so, you say it lasted just a few seconds. Tell me, what about the damage in your home? Anything?

TUCKER: All we had was a few pictures fell off the wall, that type of thing, just tipped over pictures, tipped over candles. Nothing major, nothing broke.

KAYE: And how far are you from Eureka and Ferndale, California, which is where we are seeing some of the effects as well?

TUCKER: We are about seven miles east of Ferndale and we're about 20 miles south of Eureka.

KAYE: And do you have power in your home now? Or is everything back on in the neighborhood?

TUCKER: Yes. Yes, we lost power for about two to three minutes.

KAYE: And have you had a chance to speak with any of your neighbors? What's everybody feeling there?

TUCKER: Everybody is a little shook up. I haven't actually -- I don't think I felt any of the aftershocks yet. I've been told that over in Ferndale, there's lot of downed power lines and sparking power lines. And at our local casino, which is in between Eureka and here, there is a propane leak. KAYE: All right. Well, we are certainly glad to hear you are doing OK.

Jessica Stephens Tucker, thanks so much.

TUCKER: Thank you.

KAYE: And we also want to check in now with CNN's Dan Simon. He is in San Francisco monitoring a lot of the scanner traffic for us, the emergency traffic.

Dan, what are you hearing?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (through telephone): Hi, Randi.

You know, first of all, as you said, I'm in San Francisco. I did not feel the earthquake here that's taking place, as you said, about 230 miles northwest of San Francisco, in Eureka. As you said also, I've been listening to the scanner traffic, and at this point, it sounds like there's a widespread power outage affecting Eureka and also hearing about some gas and water lines possibly being ruptured and that some residents are being evacuated as a precaution.

You know, this is scanner traffic from the police and fire dispatch. So, when we point out, not officially confirmed, but it appears at this point the damage is not terribly significant. But we are still definitely in the assessment phase. It sounds like police officers and firefighters are going to have a really busy night responding to the various areas.

But a 6.5 quake, you know, that's pretty significant. But keep in mind, it was off the coast about 22 miles off the coast. But -- you know, I'm going to keep listening to the traffic and we'll update you as we hear more.

KAYE: And, Dan, as a California resident, I mean, we heard Jessica tell us on the phone that this was more of a rolling event and then it slammed. Is that language familiar to you? Have you been through something like that?

SIMON: It definitely is. And let me point out that this particular area, it's not uncommon to have, you know, earthquakes. We should note, it is a bit closer to the shore than previous earthquakes that we've seen in the last decade or so. I was just doing a little bit of research. So, that definitely is concerning.

But that rolling effect you are saying, yes, that's very common. Not abnormal at all.

But, again, we're just trying to assess how much damage there is at this point. The gas lines, definitely a concern for firefighters responding to various homes, some ruptured gas lines. So, of course, you would expect to see some evacuations there.

KAYE: And are you hearing as well, like Jessica was telling us, that Ferndale seems to be a big area and Eureka with some propane leaks are happening as well?

SIMON: Yes. I mean, it seemed like that the quake was closest to Ferndale. So, that's where if you had some damage or anything else, that's where you would definitely feel it. But Eureka, being the largest city in that area, I think it's got about 26,000 people, that's where you would have the majority of the homes that if you had significant damage, you would probably, you know, see more of it there.

KAYE: All right. Dan Simon, keep a watch on that for us, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

Earlier, I should mention I talked to Cole Machado. He's a resident of Eureka and he sent us some really interesting pictures. That's actually a crack in the ceiling of his home that he took just after this quake. He said it lasted a few seconds and he was -- he was pretty nervous. He thought his TV was going to fall off. In fact, he told us he was watching CNN while this was happening. So, that's the crack in his ceiling. I'm not sure we had the other one that he had as well.

But he did show us -- there we go -- some of the items in his home that had fallen. I guess he has some statues and things. So, he has a little bit of a mess to clean up there. He lost power for a few minutes but everything, he said, seems to be OK.

He was talking on the phone, he told us, and all of the sudden, everything started shaking.

And, I guess, Jacqui Jeras, let's check back with you -- I guess that's not uncommon to hear from people who live through an earthquake, all of a sudden, everything starts shaking.

JERAS: Absolutely. And it's a very scary thing to go through as well. And so, if you don't have time to get outside, you want to try and get underneath something sturdy to try and protect yourself.

Something else that we deal with from time to time when those earthquakes happen offshore, you know, from the ocean floor, we get tsunamis. This time around, there was no tsunami watch or warning which was issued. It wasn't one of those types of quakes. And based on the proximity to the coastline, it's very, very close. If a tsunami were to occur, we already would have felt this and start to see things happen.

This was a relatively shallow quake, about 10 miles deep. So, that is a little bit of a factor as well. And had this happened, of course, you know, over California, we would have seen more damage as a result. So, you can see about 25 miles or so away from Ferndale, California.

A 6.5 is what we could consider a strong, not a major earthquake -- Randi.

KAYE: All right. Jacqui, thanks for keeping an eye on that.

More on this breaking news at the top of the hour -- much more, in fact. "LARRY KING" continues right after this break.



KAYE: I'm Randi Kaye.

CNN is following breaking news: A 6.5 magnitude quake has struck off the coast of northern California. The USGS says it was about 25 miles from the city of Eureka. That's a coastal city of about 26,000 people.

Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras has more details for us -- Jacqui.

JERAS: Yes, Randi.

This earthquake occurred offshore which was a good thing, otherwise, we would have seen a lot more damage. Right now, most of the reports that we're getting is that there has been minor damage. This happened about 4:30 local time, 7:30 Eastern Time.

And we'll zoom in to the area and that large orange dot that you can see, that was the main quake that hit. The multiple little dots you see around them are called aftershocks. And we've had about four of those. The strongest of which was about 3.8 in magnitude.

Now, what does that mean, a 6.5 in magnitude? That's what we would consider a strong quake. And you'll only see maybe 120 of these worldwide in a calendar year.

And you tend to see the most damage 100 miles or less from the epicenter. So, that star that you can see there, this is the epicenter. And then all of this yellow that you can see near Eureka and southward, this is where we were feeling that intensity, around 6.5 or less in that area.

So, it is very concentrated. We're getting reports of power outages.

I know, Randi, you'll have some more information on that as well.

No tsunami has been generated and no watches or warnings have been put into effect as a result of that. We will continue to monitor the aftershocks and if we get more information, of course, we'll bring it to you --Randi.

KAYE: All right. Thank you, Jacqui.

Chris Durant is who we want to speak to right now. He is a reporter with "The Times Standard" newspaper in Eureka.

Chris, can you describe for us what you saw and heard as this was happening?

CHRIS DURANT, EUREKA "TIMES STANDARD": I was actually working at the time in our newsroom. It is on the second floor of a large concrete building. We are used to feeling small ones here and there, but after the first few seconds we all looked at each other and said this is not a small one. I headed toward the stairwell. I kind of had to stop a few times, because I would have ended up on the ground if I had continue to try and run. I had to get my footing. And then as I was in the stairwell there were chunks of plaster and stuff, not huge, like knock you out chunks, but flakes of plaster, I guess, were landing all around us.

KAYE: What type of damage are you hearing about, or is your team hearing about in the area?

DURANT: Not as much as you might think with a 6.5. A lot is store fronts broken, there has been a lot of calls on the scanner with the smell of gas, power lines knocked over. The mall here did see some injuries. There were some reports that people in the mall that ceiling tiles were falling on them, and some even saw floor tiles popping up. They evacuated that pretty quick.

KAYE: What else has been evacuated besides the mall? Have neighborhoods been evacuated? I mean, how serious is this, there?

DURANT: No. No neighborhood has been evacuated. I mean, people are standing outside and talking with their neighbors and kind of like letting the nerves calm down. There is no massive evacuations, there are no police with horns in the streets or anything like that.

KAYE: All right. Chris Durant with some good details for us tonight from the Times Standard" newspaper in Eureka.

Thank you, Chris.

Just recapping what we know. A quake measuring 6.5 rolled across Northern California about two hours ago now. No serious injuries or serious damage has been reported. It was centered off the coast, but the U.S. Geological Survey says there is not threat of a tsunami, as Jacqui also confirmed for us.

Residents in Eureka and neighboring area say it was a rolling event. That is one of the pictures that a resident, there, in Eureka sent to us. Cole Machado, that is his ceiling cracked, in his home. We, of course, are going to continue to monitor this. We know that local emergency officials are on top of it and we are as well. We will have the latest details for you.

Right now, though, "LARRY KING" does continue.