Natural Disasters

Worst quake in decades hits San Francisco Bay area; law firms, at least one courthouse damaged

It wasn’t just wineries that suffered damage Sunday from an earthquake in California’s Napa Valley. The magnitude 6.0 temblor was the worst the area has seen in 25 years and left law firms and at least one courthouse with cracked and crumbling walls.

Hundreds were injured by the 3:20 a.m. quake, mostly by falling debris, but there were no immediate reports of fatalities, according to KTVU and USA Today.

Interviewed in downtown Napa, where he was scheduled to appear in court on Monday, attorney Jeff Hammond was teary as he caught sight of the city’s historic 1870s courthouse, reports NBC Bay Area.

“It was a sick feeling. The ground was just rolling,” Hammond told the station on Sunday, describing what he had felt when the earthquake began. “This is obviously the worst we’ve ever seen here.”

The KTVU article includes a photo of a missing corner of the courthouse and USA Today says the quake knocked out a 10-foot section of the building. It isn’t clear from news reports whether the building was expected to be open on Monday. However, the court’s website and a voice mail message for the main civil division did not mention any plan to close Monday as of early this morning.

Although a number of historic buildings have been retrofitted to make them more earthquake-resistant, that doesn’t render them impervious to such damage.

Mike DeSimoni Jr., whose father owns the Alexandria Square building, which houses accountants and lawyers, among other tenants, says it had been retrofitted, reports the Los Angeles Times (sub. req). Nonetheless, a photo shows corner of the tiled roof dangling in the air above a missing section of brick wall.

Brian Silver, a Napa lawyer, owns three buildings in the city and couldn’t afford the $500,000 cost to retrofit them, he told the newspaper. Now there is a hole in the wall of his law office and a parked car was crushed by falling brick. Both the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and an earlier Napa earthquake nearly 15 years ago did only minor damage, he noted.

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