September 2014

Earthquake Hits Northern California

Earthquake aftermath in NapaEarthquake aftermath in Napa

Earthquake aftermath in Napa
Two boys looked at a building in Napa that was damaged by an earthquake.

On August 24, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit California’s Napa Valley, north of San Francisco. The earthquake was the biggest the region has had in 25 years. It hit at 3:20 a.m., waking many people from sleep. The center of the earthquake was about six miles south of the town of Napa.

More than 200 people were injured and dozens of buildings and homes were damaged in the earthquake. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency to help the numerous people affected by it. Fortunately, no one died in the quake, but several people were seriously injured. It was strong enough that people felt it in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many residents of the Bay Area were startled by the sudden shaking and got up to find out what was happening.

California has a long history of earthquakes because it sits on about 60 major faults, or cracks in Earth’s surface. The longest of these is the San Andreas Fault. An earthquake happens when layers of rock deep within Earth push against each other along a fault line.

In Napa, about 50 buildings, including the local courthouse, were “red-tagged” as unsafe to enter. Bricks had crashed down from historic buildings, damaging parked cars and leaving rubble in the streets. Many residents were up early cleaning up debris and boarding up broken windows. Gas lines and power lines were damaged and some water mains broke. At one point, about 40,000 homes and businesses were without power. Public schools were closed until engineers could decide if they were safe for students to return.

In addition to the damage it caused, the earthquake surprised many by making a positive change to the landscape. Its violent shaking forced groundwater to the surface. The water fed several creeks that had dried up because of California’s severe drought conditions. The Wild Horse Creek and other once-dry waterways are now flowing through the hills southeast of Napa. This increase in water could help relieve some of the drought conditions in the area.

Image credit: ©Liu Yilin/Xinhua/eyevine/Redux Pictures
Question 1
Which area of California did the earthquake hit?

Question 2
How did the earthquake help local drought conditions?

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