A powerful magnitude 6.4 earthquake jolted the extreme northern coast of California before dawn on Tuesday, crumpling homes and roads, rupturing utility lines and leaving thousands of residents without running water and electricity.
At least a dozen people were injured, and two others died from “medical emergencies” that occurred during or just after the quake, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.
The tremor, which struck at 2:30 a.m. PST and was followed by about 80 aftershocks, was centered 215 miles (350 km) north of San Francisco offshore of Humboldt County, a largely rural area known for its redwood forests, local seafood, lumber industry and dairy farms.
California’s Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency on Tuesday for Humboldt County to support the emergency response to the earthquake.
Newsom has directed state agencies and departments to take appropriate action as necessary to provide support to local communities, according to a statement.
The region also is known for relatively frequent seismic activity, although the latest quake appeared to cause more disruption than others in recent years.
Tuesday’s temblor set off one structure fire – by severing the gas line of a hot-water heater – and caused at least two other buildings to collapse, authorities said. The blaze was quickly extinguished, and fire crews rescued a resident briefly trapped in the home, according to fire officials.
About two dozen houses were so heavily damaged as to be “red-tagged,” declared unsafe for habitation. Most were in Rio Dell, a town of about 3,400 residents that bore the brunt of the quake.
Water service to the entire community was knocked out, and City Manager Kyle Knopp said he expected 100 to 150 residents would likely end up displaced once housing inspectors had assessed all the structural damage there.
Some 79,000 homes and businesses countywide were without power in the quake’s immediate aftermath, according to the electric grid tracking website PowerOutage.us.