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Northern California coast rattled by 6.5 earthquake

Sun., Jan. 10, 2010, midnight

Widespread blackouts, but no serious injuries seen

FERNDALE, Calif. – A 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Northern California Saturday afternoon, shaking buildings south of the Oregon border and knocking out power in several coastal communities.

The powerful quake hit at 4:27 p.m. about 22 miles from Ferndale, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Authorities in the nearby city of Eureka and other area communities said no major injuries have been reported. But several people received minor cuts and scrapes from broken glass at the Bayshore Mall in Eureka, fire spokesman Gary Bird said.

“There are some frayed nerves, but I think we’ve come through this pretty well for the magnitude of earthquake we’ve had,” he said.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman J.D. Guidi said power outages were widespread across most of Humboldt County, affecting about 25,000 customers.

Several traffic lights fell and numerous residents reported water, gas and sewer leaks, Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services spokeswoman Jo Wattle said.

“People have chimneys down, and we’re hearing about minor property damage and lots of glassware broken,” Wattle said. “People are really shaken up. It was shaking pretty good, then it had a big jolt to it at the end.”

Eight aftershocks followed in the three hours after the quake, the biggest registering at 6:21 p.m. at a magnitude of 4.5.

Police in Ferndale said the earthquake caused stucco to fall off City Hall and broke shop windows, strewing the historic downtown streets with glass shards.

Televisions tumbled and objects were knocked off walls in Arcata, a small town that’s home to Humboldt State University, one resident said.

“The whole town is kind of freaked out right now,” said Judd Starks, the kitchen manager at a bar and restaurant known as The Alibi. “All the power is out, people are out walking around.”

The quake was felt as far south as Capitola in central California, and as far north as central Oregon, USGS geophysicist Richard Buckmaster said.

The area is about 270 miles north of San Francisco in a coastal area known for periodic earthquakes.



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