County rocked by magnitude 5.7 quake
Temblor centered near Canyon Dam followed by dozens of aftershocks
The earth moved in Plumas County, and it was felt as far away as San Francisco.
Bottles and cans lie smashed open on the floor after a 5.7 magnitude earthquake shook them off shelves into the aisles at Wally’s Peninsula Market in Lake Almanor on May 23. Wally’s wine room was also heavily damaged by the earthquake, but employees worked through the night to clean up the mess and opened their doors early Friday morning. Photo courtesy Wally’s Peninsula Market
A 5.7 magnitude earthquake, centered near Canyon Dam, struck at 8:47 p.m. on Thursday, May 23. The temblor was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 4.9 jolt at 1:10 a.m. Friday.
It was the largest earthquake to hit area in nearly 40 years.
No injuries were reported. But the quake caused power outages, minor structural damage and rock slides and caused things to fall off of shelves.
Plumas County Office of Emergency Services Director Jerry Sipe said up to 600 homes in the Lake Almanor area were without power for several hours.
He added that the Lake Almanor Mutual Water Co. sustained a water main rupture, emptying the storage tank located at 600 Clifford Drive.
Lake Almanor Country Club office manager Bea Kohfeld said the line was damaged when the earthquake hit.
“The line from the water tank broke just before the shut-off valve and 360,000 gallons of water was emptied,” she said May 24.
The Clifford tank is one of four that supply the Lake Almanor Peninsula.
The tired firefighters of the Peninsula Fire Protection District were back at the 801 Golf Club Road station by 8:30 a.m. Friday morning to take a break from their night patrols.
Fire Capt. Andy Courtright said personnel started rolling with the report of the damaged water line. He said the biggest hassle of the night was the lack of water.
“From there we responded to calls of potential gas leaks and there were no leaks found. We also were called to do a welfare check on a senior resident.”
He said fire crews patrolled all night long for the smell of gas.
“We also looked for downed power lines so we could get PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric Co.) on scene where needed.”
PG&E spokesperson Paul Moreno said about 660 customers lost power on the southwestern edge of Lake Almanor at about 9 p.m., but power was back up about midnight.
Moreno said the outage had been caused by swinging power lines that touched. He said before restoring power, PG&E checked with area fire departments for propane tank leaks. None were found, Moreno said, but Canyon Dam was also checked about 1 a.m. when the aftershock occurred.
PG&E also checked the condition of its dam at Canyon Dam. PG&E supervisor Hans Simonsen said reports from Thursday night indicated “everything’s OK” with the Almanor dam.
Simonsen said the dam was checked about an hour after the quake, and again Friday morning. “We’ll check and recheck,” he said.
Emergency Services’ Sipe and Capt. Courtright said at least three homes on the Lake Almanor Peninsula sustained moderate damage, including collapsed chimneys and cracked walls.
“This is an area with many vacant and seasonal homes,” Sipe said. “So not all the damage may be fully known at this time.”
“We don’t know how many homes were affected but it could have been up to 1,500,” said Courtright.
News of the earthquake was the focus of live news reports by many regional television stations Thursday night and Friday morning. It meant a long night for Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood.
“We were doing interviews with news people until 2 a.m. and then resumed again about 4 a.m.,” he said.
Hagwood said major areas of concern such as the area’s dams, bridges and roadways appeared to have survived unscathed.
“PG&E has been here making inspections on all of the dams including Butt Lake and Almanor,” he said. “There were some rockslides, but they have been cleared, and to the best of my knowledge the railroads are OK.”
Hagwood was sitting in his car in Greenville while being interviewed by Feather Publishing on Friday morning when another aftershock hit.
Many residents shared their experiences. For the most part, they were startled, a little scared, but otherwise OK.
“It was unbelievable,” said Prattville resident Linda Zimmers. She said the quake knocked over tall standing cabinets full of antique glass in her cabin. “I’ve never felt anything like it in my life. It was a huge gigantic jerk, with lots of shaking and aftershocks.”
Zimmers said she and her husband Terry spent hours cleaning up boxes and boxes of broken glass. “Every bit of glass in the kitchen broke,” she said.
Zimmers said a cabinet fell on top of her when the earthquake started. Then the power went out immediately after the initial jolt. She said it came back on quickly afterward. She and her husband weren’t hurt, but “it was pretty scary,” she said.
Hamilton Branch resident Valorie Chisholm said she was talking on the phone to her sister when her house started shaking.
“My house started shaking violently,” Chisholm said. “I have been in earthquakes, but not like that. I think half the things on my walls fell off.”
Chisholm said her sister told her to get out of the house.
“I went up to the street and felt the first aftershock,” she said. “I could see the power lines shaking. I was afraid the power lines or trees would come down. I could feel the wave. It was nauseating.”
The quake was strongly felt in Susanville and Portola. But no damage was reported in those areas.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Terry Swofford said that while there appeared to be no damage in his area of eastern Plumas County, he was monitoring the situation as a whole.
“Jerry (Sipe) has kept us informed quite well,” he said.
Despite the lack of damage in Portola, he said that earthquake chatter dominated the conversation at the local coffee shop Friday morning.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake was felt as far away as the San Francisco Bay Area and across state borders in Oregon and Nevada.
KCRA-TV in Sacramento reported the temblor was felt in downtown Sacramento, about 145 miles south of the epicenter.
According to the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, people in Yuba and Sutter counties said they felt a rolling quake but there was no damage reported.
In Chico, 45 miles from the epicenter, police and fire dispatch received many calls about the quake.
Chico Enterprise-Record reporter Ryan Olson tweeted “Felt the quake & it was a doozy — I could see the entire room move. I’m near the tracks and thought it was a train.”
The last significant earthquake to be felt in Plumas County was a 5.7 temblor that hit near Oroville Dam on Aug. 1, 1975.
The Chico Enterprise-Record and Feather Publishing staff writers Debra Moore, Laura Beaton, M. Kate West, Ingrid Burke and Samantha Hawthorne contributed to this report.