5.2 Quake Hits Calif. Wine Country

Sunday, September 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NAPA, Calif. (AP) — A 5.2-magnitude earthquake hit the heart of Northern California's wine country early Sunday, injuring more than 25 people, knocking out windows, breaking gas and water mains, and shutting down power to about half of the county, police said.

A 41-year-old man was in serious condition and a 5-year-old child was in critical condition after sustaining head injuries from falling objects, said Denise Mace, spokeswoman at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa.

About 25 other people went to the hospital's emergency room with earthquake-related injuries, mostly minor lacerations, Mace said.

The quake hit at 1:36 a.m. about 6 miles northwest of Napa and 6 miles northeast of Sonoma, near the small town of Yountville, according to the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park. The shaking woke people as far south as San Francisco, some 50 miles away.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Mark Bunger, who has lived in Napa County his whole life, described the quake as ``by far the most severe I've ever felt.

``Usually it's a rolling, but this was more of a real jolting. My wife and kids were screaming. It was quite upsetting.''

He said his two-story house in nearby Browns Valley sustained no major damage.

``There's stuff all over the floor, a lot of cracked plaster. I was relieved it was nothing really costly.''

Medical technicians also responded to emergencies that appeared to be indirectly related, including reports of heart trouble, Napa Police Cmdr. Steve Geoghegan said.

About 6,000 customers were without power three hours after the quake, down from a high of 10,000, according to a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman.

A handful of people reported gas leaks and PG&E crews were on their way to check out those homes, Jonathan Franks said.

The Napa Valley Marriott hotel in Napa was evacuated for safety reasons, according to a woman at the front desk. A few San Francisco Bay area residents cut their long weekends short and went home after the quake, she said.

Bunger said Napa area roads were crowded at 2 a.m. ``It looked like commute traffic on a Monday morning,'' he said.

Geoghegan said the quake woke him and his wife: ``It was like a rolling-type movement. It lasted for a few seconds. My office is trashed and my house is trashed.''

Kim Funk, manager of A&H Hallmark in Napa's Bel-Aire Plaza, called the earthquake ``sheer terror.''

``At first we didn't know if someone was in the house,'' she said. ``It was extremely loud. Everything was shaking. It felt like one of those jerky thrill rides.''

Her store was a mess with smashed front glass windows, broken knick-knacks, dumped shelves. She estimated the damage to be in the thousands of dollars.

Dispatcher Rick Wallace of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department in Santa Rosa, about 30 miles northwest of the quake's epicenter, said he fielded about 100 calls from residents reporting the quake and felt it himself, though the sheriff's department is in an earthquake-proof building.

``We shook twice, back to back, with everything swaying, like a waterbed,'' Wallace said.