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Crossroads family experiences first quake

By Bianca Montes , Bianca Montes
Aug. 24, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.
Updated Aug. 25, 2014 at 9:12 a.m.

A pedestrian passes a building  with a collapsed wall after an earthquake struck Sunday in Napa, Calif. Officials say an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 has been reported in California's northern San Francisco Bay area.

The rustling sound of doors to the bedroom shaking and a heavy mirror tapping against the wall woke Rebecca Atherton from her sleep early Sunday morning.

"It was like someone was pulling and pushing on my bedroom doors," she said.

Atherton was born and raised in Texas and still considers Victoria home, despite living in Northern California for the past two months with her husband and children.

The largest earthquake to hit the San Francisco Bay Area in 25 years struck before dawn Sunday, sending scores of people to hospitals, igniting fires, damaging historic buildings and knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses in California's wine country.

The magnitude-6.0 quake, which ruptured water mains and gas lines and damaged some of the region's famed wineries, sent residents running out of their homes in the darkness. Three people - two adults and a child - were critically injured.

Atherton, her husband and two younger children live about 30 miles away from the epicenter and escaped injury, but the earthquake, which was a first for all of them, still left the family shaken.

"I couldn't sleep after the earthquake because my adrenaline was pumping," Atherton said, but joked she'd take California weather and earthquakes over humidity and mosquitos any day.



Dazed residents too fearful of aftershocks to go back to bed wandered through Napa's historic downtown, where the quake had shorn a 10-foot chunk of bricks and concrete from the corner of an old county courthouse. Boulder-sized pieces of rubble littered the lawn and street in front of the building, and the hole left behind allowed a view of the offices inside.

College student Eduardo Rivera said the home he shares with six relatives shook so violently that he kept getting knocked back into his bed as he tried to flee.

"When I woke up, my mom was screaming, and the sound from the earthquake was greater than my mom's screams," the 20-year-old said.

While inspecting the shattered glass at her husband's storefront office in downtown Napa, Chris Malloy described calling for her two children in the dark as the quake rumbled under the family's home, tossing heavy pieces of furniture for several feet.

"It was shaking, and I was crawling on my hands and knees in the dark, looking for them," the 45-year-old woman said, wearing flip-flops on feet left bloodied from crawling through broken glass.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for southern Napa County, directing state agencies to respond with equipment and personnel. President Barack Obama was briefed on the earthquake, the White House said, and federal officials were in touch with state and local emergency responders.

Napa Fire Department Operations Chief John Callanan said the city had exhausted its own resources trying to extinguish at least six fires after 60 water mains ruptured as well as transporting injured residents and searching homes for anyone trapped.

Two of the fires happened at mobile home parks, including one where four homes were destroyed and two others damaged, Callanan said. A ruptured water main there delayed efforts to fight the blaze until pumper trucks could be brought in, he said.

Nola Rawlins, 83, was one of the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park residents left homeless by the fire. Rawlins said she was awakened by an explosion after the quake and managed to escape unharmed but lost all her belongings.

"There were some explosions, and it was burning. Everybody was out in the street," she said.

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