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California Governor Declares Emergency from Eureka Quake

Although the energy infrastructure remained intact, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last Tuesday declared a state of emergency for Humboldt County in the wake of the 6.5-magnitude earthquake offshore Eureka, CA, Jan. 9. Schwarzenegger cited damage along the Northern California coast, including utilities and 175 structures.

Overall, Schwarzenegger placed the damage at about $28 million, noting that on Monday Humboldt County already had declared a local state of emergency. "The circumstances of this earthquake, by the reason of its magnitude, are beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of any single county," the governor noted in the emergency declaration.

As of last Wednesday morning, a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) spokesperson told NGI that all of the utility's electrical system, including substations and a natural gas-fired power plant were "thoroughly inspected and checked out fine.

"We continue to do ground patrols for our gas system integrity, and will continue that through the rest of the week," the spokesperson added. "We have so far found 30 pipeline leaks that needed immediate attention and have addressed those."

At its peak in the aftermath last weekend, 36,000 PG&E customers were without electricity and/or gas services, but by 8 a.m. Sunday all of them were restored, according to the utility.

Centered about 13 miles offshore, the temblor struck about 4:27 p.m. PST, sending many residents in the town of 26,000 into the streets and many off to nearby higher ground. It triggered memories of years past when major quakes in the area were followed by a tsunami that battered the fishing town and killed up to 11 people in Crescent City, CA, 80 miles to the north near the Oregon border in 1964.

Initial reports said the extent of the impact was in damage to the electricity grid, but there were also water and gas lines impacted. On Sunday PG&E's spokesperson said most of the customer outages were restored overnight, and all were finished by early that morning.

About 10 aftershocks were reported by the Los Angeles Times, which quoted a University of California, Berkeley, seismologist as charactering the general Eureka and Humboldt County area as including one of the most seismically active parts of the San Andreas fault system that runs through the length of California. Offshore Eureka is where three major tectonic plates collide, forming what the scientists call the Mendocino Triple Junction (Pacific, North American and Juan de Fuca plates).

The last sizable quakes in the region were 7.2 and 6.6 in magnitude in June 2005, according to the seismologists quoted by the Times.

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