California quake stirs clamor for warning system
by Ellen Knickmeyer, Associated Press
August 26, 2014 03:45 PM | 834 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A truckload of fencing is brought to Second Street outside the earthquake damaged building that housed the Carpe Diem wine bar Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A number of blocks were fenced off in the downtown area. The earthquake that jolted California's wine capital may have caused at least $1 billion in property damage, but it also added impetus to the state's effort to develop an early warning system that might offer a few precious seconds for residents to duck under desks, trains to slow down and utility lines to be powered down before the seismic waves reach them. The magnitude-6.0 quake struck early Sunday near the city of Napa. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
A truckload of fencing is brought to Second Street outside the earthquake damaged building that housed the Carpe Diem wine bar Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A number of blocks were fenced off in the downtown area. The earthquake that jolted California's wine capital may have caused at least $1 billion in property damage, but it also added impetus to the state's effort to develop an early warning system that might offer a few precious seconds for residents to duck under desks, trains to slow down and utility lines to be powered down before the seismic waves reach them. The magnitude-6.0 quake struck early Sunday near the city of Napa. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
slideshow
City construction inspector Tina Chechourka applies an unsafe red tag on an apartment building on Third Street Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Napa, Calif. The earthquake that jolted California's wine capital may have caused at least $1 billion in property damage, but it also added impetus to the state's effort to develop an early warning system that might offer a few precious seconds for residents to duck under desks, trains to slow down and utility lines to be powered down before the seismic waves reach them. The magnitude-6.0 quake struck early Sunday near the city of Napa. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
City construction inspector Tina Chechourka applies an unsafe red tag on an apartment building on Third Street Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Napa, Calif. The earthquake that jolted California's wine capital may have caused at least $1 billion in property damage, but it also added impetus to the state's effort to develop an early warning system that might offer a few precious seconds for residents to duck under desks, trains to slow down and utility lines to be powered down before the seismic waves reach them. The magnitude-6.0 quake struck early Sunday near the city of Napa. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
slideshow
City workers at right map out the installation of fencing around earthquake damaged buildings Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Napa, Calif. The earthquake that jolted California's wine capital may have caused at least $1 billion in property damage, but it also added impetus to the state's effort to develop an early warning system that might offer a few precious seconds for residents to duck under desks, trains to slow down and utility lines to be powered down before the seismic waves reach them. The magnitude-6.0 quake struck early Sunday near the city of Napa. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
City workers at right map out the installation of fencing around earthquake damaged buildings Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Napa, Calif. The earthquake that jolted California's wine capital may have caused at least $1 billion in property damage, but it also added impetus to the state's effort to develop an early warning system that might offer a few precious seconds for residents to duck under desks, trains to slow down and utility lines to be powered down before the seismic waves reach them. The magnitude-6.0 quake struck early Sunday near the city of Napa. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
slideshow
Wine leaks from some of the hundreds of earthquake damaged wine barrels at the Kieu Hoang Winery Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Napa, Calif. Winemakers in California’s storied Napa Valley woke up Sunday to thousands of broken bottles, barrels and gallons of ruined wine as a result of Sunday’s earthquake. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Wine leaks from some of the hundreds of earthquake damaged wine barrels at the Kieu Hoang Winery Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Napa, Calif. Winemakers in California’s storied Napa Valley woke up Sunday to thousands of broken bottles, barrels and gallons of ruined wine as a result of Sunday’s earthquake. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
slideshow
Cellar worker Adam Craig looks over some of the hundreds of earthquake damaged wine barrels that covered and toppled a pair of forklifts at the Kieu Hoang Winery Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A powerful earthquake that struck the heart of California's wine country caught many people sound asleep, sending dressers, mirrors and pictures crashing down around them and toppling wine bottles in vineyards around the region. The magnitude-6.0 quake struck at 3:20 a.m. PDT Sunday near the city of Napa. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Cellar worker Adam Craig looks over some of the hundreds of earthquake damaged wine barrels that covered and toppled a pair of forklifts at the Kieu Hoang Winery Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A powerful earthquake that struck the heart of California's wine country caught many people sound asleep, sending dressers, mirrors and pictures crashing down around them and toppling wine bottles in vineyards around the region. The magnitude-6.0 quake struck at 3:20 a.m. PDT Sunday near the city of Napa. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
slideshow

NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Ten seconds before a severe earthquake in California's wine country caused the ground to rumble throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, a university lab in the city of Berkeley got the alert that the seismic waves were rolling its way.

The lab is testing a prototype of an earthquake early-warning system that California is pursuing years after places like Mexico and Japan already have them up and running.

Sunday's rolling magnitude-6.0 earthquake near Napa has led to renewed calls for the system's quick deployment in the state before another, possibly more destructive temblor strikes.

"There's no doubt a major earthquake will hit California — the only questions are when and where. I believe an integrated earthquake early-warning system is essential to save lives and property," California's senior senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, said in a statement Monday.

She joined a chorus of political leaders and scientists calling for the system. Experts say it would allow trains to slow down or stop, power plants and factories to shut off valves, and schoolchildren to dive under desks to avoid falling objects, reducing injuries and damage.

In California, it may be closer to reality than most state residents realize. A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year ordered his Office of Emergency Services to develop a comprehensive statewide system and by 2016, identify sources of funding for it. It would cost an estimated $80 million.

Richard Allen, director of the University of California, Berkeley, Seismological Lab, said the 10-second alert his lab received estimated the quake at a magnitude-5.7. Berkeley is about 40 miles from the quake's epicenter and did not experience any damage, but 10 seconds could have made a big difference in a more violent temblor, he said. That time would allow people to find safety, he said.

Sunday's quake caused several injuries, left four mobile homes destroyed by gas-fed fires and damaged wineries, historic buildings and hotels in the Napa area. The damage has been estimated as high as $1 billion.

The area has experienced dozens of aftershocks since, the largest of which was a magnitude-3.9 quake that struck at 5:33 a.m. Tuesday about 7 miles south of Napa.

There were no calls reporting damage or injuries, but the quake did rattle already frayed nerves.

"That's not just an aftershock. That's another earthquake to me," Krisha Reed told KTVU-TV after running out of her apartment. She suffered injuries in Sunday's quake.

The early-warning systems can't predict quakes and are not effective at the epicenter, where the tremors go out almost simultaneously. The warning people receive — a few seconds to tens of seconds — depends on the distance from the epicenter.

Napa would have received, at most, a second of warning if California already had a system in place, said Thomas Heaton, a professor of engineering seismology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Meanwhile, the city's business owners spent Monday mopping up high-end vintages that spilled from barrels and bottles and sweeping away broken glass in the rush to get the tourist hotspot back in shape for the summer's final holiday weekend. Government and tourism officials assessing its economic and structural impact encouraged visitors to keep flocking to the charming towns, tasting rooms, restaurants and spas that drive the Napa Valley economy.

The worst damage and disruption was confined to the city's downtown, where a post office, library and a 141-room hotel were among more than 160 homes and buildings either deemed unsafe to occupy or enter. Two hotels and 12 wineries remained closed Monday, as well as gift shops, restaurants and other downtown businesses, said Clay Gregory, president of tourism organization Visit Napa Valley.

"Clearly, we are concerned that people are going to see that it was a catastrophe, and it certainly wasn't good, but it wasn't a catastrophe by any means," Gregory said.

August, September and October grape harvest represents the busiest time of year for both the valley's 500 or so vintners and the visitors who come from all over the world to see them work.

At the famed Robert Mondavi Winery outside Napa, gift shop supervisor Kevin Seeman said there had been only a small number of canceled reservations.

"A lot of the staffers are worried," Seeman said. "Some of them, their homes are full of rubble; they are worried because they can't find their cats. The visitors seem not so worried about it all."

___

Thanawala reported from San Francisco. Lisa Leff in San Francisco and Scott Mayerowitz contributed to this story.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides