TOPICS > Nation

Wine country residents pick up after 6.0 earthquake strikes Napa

August 25, 2014 at 6:21 PM EDT
Northern California’s Napa Valley began to assess the damage caused by a 6.0 earthquake on Sunday -- the largest quake to rock the region since 1989. At least 90 homes and buildings were deemed unsafe for occupancy, while the wine industry suffered losses from broken bottles, barrels and lost tourism dollars. Special correspondent Spencer Michels reports.
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL: Businesses and residents of Northern California assessed the damage today, after the strongest earthquake in decades rocked the area over the weekend. Some analysts estimated economic losses could reach $4 billion.

“NewsHour” special correspondent Spencer Michels has our report from Napa Valley.

SPENCER MICHELS: The people of Napa picked up where they left off last night, cleaning up the mess the earthquake left behind. Chunks of bricks and broken glass were strewn across the streets. As of this morning, local officials estimated at least 90 homes and buildings, including the historic county courthouse, were deemed unsafe to occupy.

MIKE PARNESS, City Manager, Napa: Tonight, after we have looked at all of the properties, all of the infrastructure, one of the first things we will be doing in the next day or so is sitting down and trying to figure out, what does this mean in terms of infrastructure impact private-public, as well as economic impact?

SPENCER MICHELS: The earthquake, a 6.0, struck in the wee hours of Sunday in the heart of Northern California’s wine country.

CHRISTOPHER COX, California: I’m still kind of caught up in being back and how violent the shaking was. But, yes, it’s just — it’s amazing. You don’t think it’s going to happen in Napa. You hear everything is in San Francisco, Los Angeles. For an epicenter to be right here in Napa itself is kind of shocking.

SPENCER MICHELS: The shock came as the region’s famed vineyards were at the beginning of the harvesting season in an industry that generates more than $13 billion a year. Thousands of bottles of wine were shaken from their shelves and onto cellar floors. In some cases, entire barrels toppled over, spilling their contents.

Some vineyards lost power, disrupting the fermentation process for this year’s vintage. And individual wine bars and wineries reported losses ranging from $15,000 to $20,000 each.

MAN: Broke away at the other end, and I think it just rocked and rolled.

SPENCER MICHELS: Madonna Estates was one winery that suffered some significant damage.

MAN: There’s not enough space. And as it moved, jumped around, they all came to the point where they jumped off the end and then fell down. The harvest is getting ready to start this week. And I’m dealing with this.

SPENCER MICHELS: The tremor also forced many wineries and restaurants to close, at the height of the tourism season.

PARIS YILDIZ, Allegria restaurant: It was a mess. You literally have to walk over glass just to get to the main dining room. So we pretty much lost, I would say, 80 percent of our inventory. And, of course, we lost our food because we had no power.

SPENCER MICHELS: The Napa earthquake was the strongest in Northern California since the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, which killed 62 people. Before that, the strongest earthquake on record was the San Francisco quake of 1906, which essentially destroyed the city. This quake isn’t in that category, but it certainly is a reminder that San Francisco and the Bay Area is earthquake country.

Several of the damaged buildings in downtown Napa had not been retrofitted to withstand earthquakes, a process which, according to restoration worker Anthony Van Krieken, saved many other buildings.

ANTHONY VAN KRIEKEN, Architecture Fenestration & Restoration: Most of the ones that were retrofitted actually did — held up very well. In retrofitting, they do different processes, but if you go the crisscross and the heavy iron and all those applications, those seem to have held up well. There are several buildings right on Main Street that I could show you that held up perfectly with no damage at all.

SPENCER MICHELS: Schools were closed today as classrooms were inspected. Power and gas were mostly restored to thousands of homes and businesses that lost service. Around 600 properties will remain without water until later this week.

And Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa said it treated 208 people hurt in the earthquake. One person remains in critical condition.