News / Economy

California Wine Country Quake Losses Seen in the Billions

Winemaker Tom Montgomery stands in wine and reacts to seeing damage following an earthquake at the B.R. Cohn Winery barrel storage facility, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, California.
Winemaker Tom Montgomery stands in wine and reacts to seeing damage following an earthquake at the B.R. Cohn Winery barrel storage facility, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, California.

The strong earthquake that jolted residents of California's historic Napa Valley wine country out of their beds in the wee hours on Sunday caused insured property losses likely to run in the hundreds of millions of dollars, but the region's economic losses will be several times that amount, experts said on Monday.

The magnitude 6.0 quake, the biggest to hit California's Bay Area in 25 years, struck before dawn on Sunday near Napa, injuring more than 200 people and damaging dozens of buildings in the picturesque community northeast of San Francisco.

At least 49 buildings in Napa, a town of 77,000 residents, were “red-tagged” as unsafe to enter, including the Napa Senior Center and the local courthouse, and that figure was expected to rise as additional structures were inspected, officials said.

The quake struck just as the grape-harvesting season is getting under way in Napa County, a significant wine-producing area that generates thousands of jobs in the region.

  • Andrew Brooks, associate winemaker of Bouchaine Vineyards, surveys fallen wine barrels after a 6.0 earthquake in Napa, California, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • Grace Hardy cleans up wine bottles at in Napa, California, following an earthquake, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • Pedestrians stop to examine a crumbling facade at the Vintner's Collective tasting room in Napa, California, following an earthquake, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • Cracked asphalt along Highway 12, Napa, California, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • A vehicle is trapped beneath a collapsed parking structure in Napa, California, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • A fallen statue of Bacchus, a Roman god of wine,inside the Ceja Vineyards tasting room after an earthquake in Napa, California, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • Nina Quidit cleans up the Dollar Plus and Party Supplies Store in American Canyon, California, after an earthquake, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • A man photographs damage to a post office in Napa, Calif., following an earthquake, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • A reporter surveys the scene of a building collapse following a reported 6.1 earthquake in Napa, California, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • People look at a damaged building with a top corner exposed following an earthquake in Napa, California, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • Jean Meehan looks over the damage to her JHM Stamp and Collectibles store following an earthquake in Napa, California, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • People walk past a tumbled mannequin and broken storefront window on First Street following an earthquake in Napa, California, Aug. 24, 2014.
  • Bricks are in the street after a building was damaged during an earthquake in Napa, California, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014.

Wineries closest to Napa reported the most serious losses, but the full extent of damage had yet to be assessed, said Nancy Underwood of the Napa Valley Vintners Association.

In the town of Napa, a number of building facades crumbled in the historic district, and the numerous wine shops were strewn with broken bottles. Most of the buildings red-tagged were damaged despite having been retrofitted to better withstand quakes, officials told a news conference.

Disaster modeling firm CoreLogic estimated that total insured economic losses could range from $500 million to $1 billion, though the company acknowledged “a fair amount of uncertainty” around those numbers.

Roughly a quarter to a half of that projection could come from residential losses, CoreLogic said, noting that $1.8 billion in insured claims were paid to policyholders after the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1989.

The Insurance Information Institute in New York likewise estimated that insured quake damage would probably measure in the hundreds of millions of dollars, though overall economic losses will likely run several times higher.

The difference is because only about 6 percent of homes in the Napa area are covered by earthquake insurance, said Robert Hartwig, president and economist at the institute.

Wine Country Knocked Sideways

In Napa's wine country, businesses were grappling with the effects of the quake.

“Everyone is working hard to get business back to normal as quickly as possible,” the Napa Valley Vintners Association said in a statement, adding that some wineries sustained damage to barrel storage areas, production equipment and wine inventories.

At the Saintsbury winery, about a mile from the epicenter, co-founder Richard Ward said the start of his harvest would be likely postponed “for a couple of days.”

No quake-related fatalities were reported, but the emergency room at Napa's Queen of the Valley Medical Center treated 208 patients hurt by the tremor, most for minor injuries, county emergency operations spokeswoman Nikki Lundeen said.

Local battalion Fire Chief John Callahan on Sunday said three people were listed as seriously injured, including a child who suffered multiple fractures after a fireplace fell on him.

“Civilian casualties were small. It could have been so much worse,” fire department representative Mike Randolph said.

Six fires erupted, apparently from severed gas lines, including one blaze that destroyed six mobile homes, he said.

Some 600 properties in town remained without water on Monday and several streets were closed due to debris. Area public schools were also closed.

Power was initially knocked out to some 70,000 homes and businesses, but was restored by midday on Monday, Pacific Gas & Electric spokesman Jeff Smith said. He said crews were going door to door checking that all gas installations were safe.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, putting state resources at the disposal of his Office of Emergency Services. The quake was felt throughout the Bay Area, with residents nearest the epicenter reporting severe shaking that lasted nearly a minute.

Earthquake Near Napa, California (CLICK TO ENLARGE)Earthquake Near Napa, California (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Earthquake Near Napa, California (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Earthquake Near Napa, California (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

More than 90 percent of people living in Napa, Sonoma and Fairfield - all located less than 15 miles from the epicenter - were jolted awake by the tremor, according to the company Jawbone, which makes a popular health-tracking wristband.

The tremor was the largest earthquake to hit the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta quake in 1989, which killed 63 people and caused $6 billion in property damage.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.