Large earthquake knocks out power for thousands in Northern California

The quake struck early this morning with at least three-dozen aftershocks.
Ferndale California downtown before a 6.4-magnitude earthquake
People in Ferndale, California, have seen power outages and aftershocks after a major earthquake on December 20, 2022. Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

At 2:34 a.m. PST, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake stuck Northern California, with at least two people injured and thousands without power. The quake was centered just off the coast in the Pacific Ocean, roughly 7.5 miles from Ferndale, California, in sparsely populated Humboldt County. Ferndale is about 20 miles southwest of Eureka and 280 miles northwest of the state capital of Sacramento.

Residents have been warned to prepare for aftershocks, but there is no tsunami threat, according to NOAA. More than three dozen aftershocks had been measured by the United States Geological Survey.

[Related: Earthquake models get a big shakeup with clues buried in the San Andreas fault.]

The California Governor’s office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) is continuing to assess the damage. “Cal OES is coordinating with local and tribal governments to assess the impacts of the Earthquake and supporting with resources, mutual aid and damage assessment. State Agency response including Cal OES, Cal Fire, Cal Trans, Cal CGS, CHP in support of local efforts,” the agency said in an update on Twitter.

One of the roads damaged was near the Fernbridge, a bridge that crosses the Eel River. This bridge and road are a primary route for Ferndale residents to reach Eureka, Humboldt County’s largest city. The bridge was closed early Tuesday morning.

Shane Wilson, chief of the Rio Dell Volunteer Fire Department, told The New York Times on Tuesday morning that that two structure fires were reported, both causing minor damage. However, there was also “significant structure damage,” from the quake including houses separated from foundations, according to Wilson.

[Related: Earthquakes can cause serious psychological aftershocks.]

Ferndale is no stranger to earthquakes in recent years. In December 2021, a 6.2-magnitude tremor rocked the town, but proved that the state’s early warning system was working. Some residents received notice about 10 to 15 seconds before shaking began.

According to the the American Red Cross, Department of Homeland Security, and Earthquake Country Alliance, there are some things to do to stay safe after an earthquake has struck:

  • Get outside if you are in a damaged building and move far away from an debris that may fall.
  • Close your mouth of you are stuck under debris to keep from inhaling fumes. Try to send a text for help or hit a nearby object and whistle so rescuers can find you.
  • Wait out the aftershocks and be prepared for them in the hours after the initial quake.
  • Keep an eye on updates from government agencies and news sources.
  • Only make phone calls unless it’s an emergency, since call volume can exceed capacity after an earthquake. Text instead.