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Earthquake shakes the heart of Napa Valley

Major earthquake shakes downtown Napa
Major earthquake shakes downtown Napa
Julie Santiago

Downtown Napa residents awakened Sunday morning, August 24th, 2014, to a surreal scene of debris, broken windows and spilled wine. The earthquake couldn’t happen at the worst time for Napa Valley community and vintners. Reports from winery damages are still coming in. There is no estimate on the damages to the wine industry, because winery owners and winemakers are in the middle of the 2014 harvest, so there is no time to stop and count losses, grapes cannot wait.

Major Earthquake affects downtown Napa
Julie Santiago

The earthquake has affected many of the downtown buildings. The City of Napa reported on August 25, 2014, that so far 70 buildings, some of them historic landmarks, are now on the red-tag list. A red tag means the structure is uninhabitable due to damage from the earthquake. The yellow-tagged list (caution required) is approaching 200. There are 60 building inspectors now at work evaluating structures. Today Napa looks like a ghost town. All businesses are being affected, even those that suffered no significant damages, since visitors and locals alike are staying away from the downtown area. Historically, the Labor Day weekend is always a busy weekend for wine tasting rooms, restaurants and local shops. This year may be a different story.

Wineries around the Valley are reporting losses either through the local news, their Facebook page or their websites. Wineries like Fontanella Winery, Saintsbury, Starmont, Trefethen are known to have sustained damages. Others have reported sustaining little damages.

Napa Valley’s “good neighbor” disposition comes into effect when everybody is in need. Home Depot crews were observed Sunday offering downtown businesses their help with boarding boards and bottled water. Water stations throughout town are providing water to neighbors in need, and the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) Association is stepping up to help support the Napa community and affected vintners. City of Napa acted immediately declaring a local emergency by 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning. California Governor Jerry Brown followed by declaring a state of emergency for southern Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties. The declaration allows all available state resources to be directed toward earthquake response efforts.

The NVV announced on their website, on August 25th, that the Napa Food Bank is in need of food donatios. They are in need of non-perishable foods, especially tomato products, canned fruit, and canned protein like tuna and chicken. They also need volunteers for staffing their center since they expect an influx of people over the next few days. Also, monetary donations to supplement lost items are being requested.

Local supermarkets like Vallergas, Browns Valley Market, Safeway and others have reported substantial losses in their inventory and may not be opened for a few more days.

The NVV also reports for those vintners who did suffer equipment or facility damage, there are resources available to secure temporary tanks and other production equipment to help them get through the next few weeks. “The spirit of collaboration for which the Napa Valley is known is expected to prevail."

Their August 25, 2014, website statement continues:

“At this time, it is too early to provide damage or loss estimates for wine, equipment and facilities, but here are some things that are known:

  • Some Napa Valley s member wineries did sustain damage to their barrel storage areas, wine inventory and production equipment over the weekend, but details are not currently available.
  • There were no reports of winery employees being injured by the earthquake.
  • The majority of the wine that is at the wineries right now is from the 2012 and 2013 vintages – the two most abundant vintages ever. While some individual wineries may experience inventory shortages as a result of the earthquake, it is not expected to have a significant impact on Napa Valley wine inventory in general.”

Napa Valley spirit has always been one of community and collaboration. That is what makes the Valley such a special place to be part of.

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