A strong earthquake, estimated magnitude 6.5, rocked the Eureka, Calif., area this afternoon, snapping power lines, toppling televisions, disrupting power throughout the region and forcing the evacuation of at least one mall.
The earthquake was centered under the Pacific Ocean, about 25 miles southwest of Eureka, at 4:27 p.m. A tsunami was not expected, according to the National Weather Service.
“It was a monstrous one,” said Phil Burns, owner of Mity Nice Bakery Cafe Restaurant in Eureka, which suffered no major damage. “I’ve been through a lot of these and usually they’re sharp but this one was very wiggly; it was rolling in all directions.”
Burns said it took his mother half an hour to be evacuated from the Bayshore Mall.
William Bowman, 60, was at home in the south Eureka fishing village of King Salmon — about 10 miles from the epicenter — when the quake hit, shattering heirloom dishware and toppling a television.
“I hit the floor,” he said. “It was a long one. I thought the house was coming down.”
The shaking lasted about 10 seconds, snapping power lines and knocking out power throughout the isolated seaside community of about 750. When it stopped, people gathered in the street. Some were visibly panic-stricken. Others yelled, "You all right?" in the direction of neighbor’s homes.
The next sounds Bowman heard was that of engines revving as people began to stream out of the village on its only access road, racing toward what he described as “the closest higher ground, 150-foot high Bell Hill.”
Bowman and his wife, however, drove to their restaurant in the nearby community of Cutten. “We lost a few nice bottles of wine,” he said.
A newly installed tsunami warning system was not activated.
Some neighborhoods appeared to be calm. Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass said of her neighborhood, "I don't see smoke. I don't hear sirens all over the place. My phones are working and the power is on."
Sandra Hall, owner of Antiques and Goodies in Eureka, said the quake moved her shop in all directions.
Her store was littered with broken lamps, dishes and wardrobe items. She said there were at least four people in her store when the quake struck. A couple managed to run out of the store’s main entrance, while two women took shelter under a table.
“We’ve been through a lot of earthquakes but I can’t recall there ever being any this bad,” Hall said.
Richard Allen, a UC Berkeley seismologist, said the area where the earthquake occurred was in the Mendocino Triple Junction, where three tectonic plates collide, one of the most seismically active regions of the San Andreas transform system.
Several aftershocks have been recorded.