Friday, October 7, 2022

Condor Release Attempt Set for Monday

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2022 at 2:24 PM

California condor A4 in the enclosure. - COURTESY OF THE YUROK TRIBE
  • Courtesy of the Yurok Tribe
  • California condor A4 in the enclosure.

If all goes as planned, the number of California condors flying free over Humboldt County will increase to six on Monday as part of a Yurok Tribe-led effort to return the endangered species they know as prey-go-neesh to the northern reaches of its former territory.

The two birds that will take their first foray into the wild are part of a cohort of four — currently known as A4, A5, A6 and A7 — that arrived on the North Coast in mid-August. The rest are set to follow over the next month.

Once out, the condors will join four others — Ney-gem' 'Ne-chween-kah (She carries our prayers, A0), Hlow Hoo-let (Finally, I/we fly A1), Nes-kwe-chokw' (He returns/arrives, A2) and Poy'-we-son (The one who goes ahead, “leader” A3) — that took their historic flights in May and July, becoming the first of massive birds with a nearly 10-foot wingspan to do so locally in more than a century.

According to a Yurok Tribe news release, those first four are “thriving in the redwood region.”

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Four in a Row: California Drought Likely to Continue

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2022 at 8:16 AM

Nearby mountain peaks with only small patches of snow near the Phillips Station meadow, shown shortly before the California Department of Water Resources conducted the forth media snow survey of the 2022 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The survey is held approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo taken April 1, 2022. - KEN JAMES / CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES
  • Ken James / California Department of Water Resources
  • Nearby mountain peaks with only small patches of snow near the Phillips Station meadow, shown shortly before the California Department of Water Resources conducted the forth media snow survey of the 2022 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The survey is held approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo taken April 1, 2022.
As California’s 2022 water year ends this week, the parched state is bracing for another dry year — its fourth in a row.

So far, in California’s recorded history, six previous droughts have lasted four or more years,  two of them in the past 35 years. 

Despite some rain in September, weather watchers expect a hot and dry fall, and warn that this winter could bring warm temperatures and below-average precipitation

Conditions are shaping up to be a “recipe for drought”: a La Niña climate pattern plus warm temperatures in the Western Tropical Pacific that could mean critical rain and snowstorms miss California, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA and The Nature Conservancy. 

Swain said California’s fate will depend on how exactly the storm track shifts, and that seasonal forecasts are inherently uncertain. Even so, “I would still put my money on dry, even in the northern third of the state,” he said. “It’s not a guarantee. But if you were to see 50 winters like this one, most of them would be dry.”

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Red Flag Warning: Increased Risk of Fire Starts

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2022 at 10:36 AM


A swath of interior Humboldt County, and surrounding counties, is under a red flag warning today from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., the Eureka office of the National Weather Service reports.

The culprit is an upper level disturbance that will move through the region and mix with "monsoon moisture and an unstable atmosphere," the NWS reports.

"Thunderstorms producing abundant lightning across dry fuels are expected," a NWS post states, "resulting in an increased threat for fire starts."
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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

California Poised to Restrict Bee-killing Pesticides

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2022 at 11:20 AM

A bee on a lavender plant. - KIMBERLY WEAR
  • Kimberly Wear
  • A bee on a lavender plant.
Widely used insecticides that harm bees and songbirds would face far-reaching restrictions in California under regulations proposed by the state’s pesticide agency.

The new limits would be among the nation’s most extensive for agricultural use of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides used to kill plant-damaging pests like aphids. The highly potent pesticides have been shown to harm bees, birds and other creatures.

Aimed at protecting bees that pollinate crops, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s proposed rules would restrict four closely-related neonicotinoid chemicals: imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran.

Unveiled in February, the rules would limit when and how much can be applied, depending on the specific chemical, the crop and, in some cases, the presence of honeybees or other pollinators. California’s pesticide regulators are still evaluating public feedback and there is no specific timeframe for finalizing the proposal.

Neonicotinoids are the most popular insecticides in the world — although not in California, according to the state pesticide agency.

“Pollinators play a very important role in the ecosystem at large as well as for crops and being able to produce food in the state.”

Karen Morrison, California Department of Pesticide Regulation

More than a decade in the making, California’s reevaluation of neonicotinoids began in 2009, after the agency received a report from pesticide manufacturer Bayer CropScience that “showed potentially harmful effects of imidacloprid to pollinators.” A 2014 law set a series of deadlines for reevaluating their risks and adopting “any control measures necessary to protect pollinator health.”

In addition, a bill in the Legislature would ban use of neonicotinoids in homes, yards and other outdoor non-agricultural settings, starting in 2024. A variety of consumer products are registered for use in California, such as BioAdvanced All-in-One Rose and Flower Care Liquid Concentrate, which contains imidacloprid.

The bill trails other states, including New Jersey and Maine, that have already banned outdoor uses in gardens and residential areas. New Jersey’s ban extends to commercial landscapes, like golf courses, too.

The European Union banned several neonicotinoids for all outdoor uses because of the risks to bees. And other states already have some restrictions on agricultural use, largely by allowing the chemicals to be bought or used only by those with specific training. Rhode Island has also barred neonicotinoids when crops are blooming.

If finalized, California’s proposal to restrict agricultural use could “significantly impact when and how” neonicotinoid products can be used in the nation’s No. 1 agricultural state, according to an analysis by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“This is critical,” said Karen Morrison, acting chief deputy director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation. “Pollinators play a very important role in the ecosystem at large as well as for crops and being able to produce food in the state.”

California regulators anticipate the rule would reduce neonicotinoids applied to plants and soil by 45 percent. Seeds coated in neonicotinoids — a major use of the chemicals — would not be restricted.

California growers say the restrictions could hamstring their power to protect crops and could ultimately lead to worse outcomes for pollinators.

Limiting the use of neonicotinoids could force the citrus industry, for instance, to use other pesticides that are “not necessarily what the state of California wants” and could require “multiple sprays, something that may pose more risk to bees,” said Casey Creamer, president and CEO of California Citrus Mutual, a trade association of citrus growers.

Almonds, cherries, citrus, cotton, grapes, strawberries, tomatoes and walnuts are major crops expected to be highly affected by the restrictions. These crops make up about half of the state’s agricultural exports and two-thirds of the acreage treated with neonicotinoids from 2017 to 2019. Fresno, Kern, Tulare, Monterey and San Joaquin top the list of counties where the most neonicotinoids were applied.

Some replacement chemicals may be more toxic to pests’ natural enemies — worsening infestations, the California agriculture department warned in its analysis.

Such alternatives like pyrethroids, for instance, are also “very toxic to bees, in that they hit the bee, the bee dies. If they're in the spray, they all die,” said Robert Van Steenwyk, a cooperative extension specialist emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley and one of the authors of the report. “So, that isn’t a great alternative.”

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Monday, July 11, 2022

Fourth California Condor Readied for Release (with Video)

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2022 at 12:33 PM

A1 is set to be released on Tuesday. - MATT MAIS/YUROK TRIBE
  • Matt Mais/Yurok Tribe
  • A1 is set to be released on Tuesday.
The Northern California Condor Restoration Program is readying to release a fourth California condor Tuesday to join three others currently flying free in the skies over Humboldt County.

Known as A1, the young male’s first out-of-enclosure debut was delayed by a faulty satellite transmitter, which was replaced last week (see video below). If all goes as planned, he will soon join his fellow cohort members A2, A3 and A4 out in the wild sometime tomorrow.

“The timing of the release is contingent upon a few factors. The NCCRP will wait for free-flying prey-go-neesh to be present at the management facility before they initiate the release procedure,” a news release from the Yurok Tribe states. “The presence of additional prey-go-neesh will ensure A1 is as calm as possible during the transition into the wild. Prior to the release, A1 must voluntarily enter and exit a staging pen with access to the outside world.”

Read more about the Yurok Tribe's effort to return the endangered bird they know as prey-go-neesh to the northern reaches of its once vast territory here. (Just a note, when the story went to print A0 — the cohort’s sole female — had been on a long sojourn but she has since safely returned to management and release site.)

Tomorrow’s anticipated release can be viewed live via the Yurok Condor Cam, which can be found here:

Another cohort of young condors is expected to arrive on the North Coast in late summer or early fall, a process that will continue each year for at least the next two decades, with the ultimate goal of building a self-sustaining condor population in the region that will eventually spread to the Pacific Northwest.

Read the Yurok Tribe release below:

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Monday, June 20, 2022

Hot Opening to Summer

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 7:24 PM

It's going to warm up tomorrow and the next day, especially inland, for the first official two days of summer.

According to the Eureka office of the National Weather Service, a high pressure aloft "will result in increasingly hot interior temperatures through mid-week."

Garberville and Hoopa are forecast to hit 100 degrees Tuesday and 98 and 99, respectively, on Wednesday while Willow Creek is expected to hit 101 followed by 100.

On the coast, "cool northerly winds will persist" each afternoon over the next two days, with Eureka expected to hit 73 tomorrow and 70 on Wednesday, according to NWS.

For more local weather information, visit
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Monday, June 6, 2022

Climate Controversy: California’s Plan for Handling Crisis is Flawed, Advisors Say

Posted By on Mon, Jun 6, 2022 at 11:28 AM

  • Shutterstock
As California races to prevent the irreversible effects of climate change, some experts are questioning key policies that the state is counting on to meet its ambitious goals and accusing state officials of failing to provide substantial details to back up its claims.

The California Air Resources Board’s proposal, called a scoping plan, outlines policies that would transition the economy away from fossil fuels. The purpose of the plan is to fulfill state mandates to reduce planet-warming emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. 

In this year’s highly-anticipated climate policy blueprint, some critics say the state agency has not been transparent on how it plans to achieve its goals. The process has left legislators and others at the forefront of the climate discussion confused over the air board staff’s projections.  

“The draft scoping plan does California a disservice,” said Danny Cullenward, an economist and vice chair of the Independent Emissions Market Advisory Committee, a group of five experts appointed by the governor and top legislators to assess the effectiveness of the state’s landmark cap and trade program. “It focuses on long-term goals at the expense of near-term action.” 

At two recent state committee meetings, environmentalists, academics and climate policy experts who serve on state advisory panels voiced concerns over California’s approach to tackling the climate crisis. They called the plan incomplete, ambiguous and confusing.

In addition, in a letter sent Thursday to the Air Resources Board and Gov. Gavin Newsom, 73 environmental justice groups called the proposed scoping plan “a setback for the state and the world.” 

“It fails to accelerate our 2030 and 2045 climate targets, and it fails to increase the pace of California’s actions beyond existing commitments,” the letter says. “We need a plan that transitions us away from the extractive, fossil-fueled energy system at the pace and scale demanded by climate science and environmental justice.” 

The Air Resources Board did not send representatives to speak at either of the two meetings — a joint Senate and Assembly committee hearing and the emissions trading advisory committee. 

But in a response to questions from CalMatters, air quality officials said the plan is a “guidance document” and that specific emissions reductions would be detailed when individual regulations are drafted.

“It is not a final document, nor intended to be. It is also not a regulation. It is a guidance document and as such leaves room for new information that may become available later,” said air board spokesperson Dave Clegern. 

The debate pits those who want to mandate an end to fossil fuels against those who want an approach that relies more on market incentives and technology. 

The plan focuses on increasing dependence on renewable energy, such as wind, solar and electric cars, and capturing carbon dioxide emitted by oil refineries and other industries.

The debate pits those who want to mandate an end to fossil fuels against those who want an approach that relies more on market incentives and technology. 

Environmentalists have long viewed the use of carbon removal technology and cap and trade as continued investments in the fossil fuel industry. But others side with the oil industry, saying the state won’t be able to reduce carbon emissions fast enough without them. And across the political spectrum, many say the state’s approaches are too flawed to produce the results that the Air Resources Board says they will. 

“In place of tangible strategies to reduce emissions, the draft plan aims to achieve far fewer emission reductions than other leading climate jurisdictions in the U.S. are already pursuing,” Cullenward said. “Nothing less than the future of California’s climate policy is at stake.” 

The board plans to hold a public hearing on the plan on June 23 and vote in August.

Critics say staff haven’t provided much evidence of how some key components could work, including the state’s reliance on carbon removal and the role of its cap and trade program, which is a greenhouse gas market for industries that allows them to buy and sell credits. 

Air board staff used modeling to predict how each sector of the economy will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. In their draft plan, they say carbon removal technologies will help capture millions of tons of carbon dioxide at oil refineries and other industries that are difficult to de-carbonize, such as cement. 

The plan cites studies from Lawrence Livermore, MIT and other institutions about how the technology may work, but adds, “ultimately, the role for mechanical (carbon dioxide removal) will depend on the success of reducing emissions directly at the source.”

Air board officials included in their models that carbon capture technologies were deployed in 2021 and will ramp up quickly by 2030. The plan says about 2 million tons of carbon dioxide were captured in 2021 — even though no facilities exist in California.

But they acknowledged in the plan that this assumption was wrong: Use of the technology in California by 2025 is “unlikely, and those emissions will be emitted into the atmosphere.” They said they would revise their modeling in the final version.

No agreement on how well carbon removal works

Air board officials say reducing emissions alone won’t address the growing threat of climate change. The path to carbon neutrality cannot be achieved without extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to their analysis. In their plan, by 2035, 5 percent of total emissions would be eliminated through carbon removal technologies, and that drops to 3.5 percent by 2045.

Carbon capture is the practice of collecting carbon dioxide emitted by smokestacks, transporting it in pipelines and injecting it deep underground for long-term storage so it does not warm the planet. (The practice is different from biological sequestration, where carbon dioxide is stored in natural habitats, such as vegetation, forests, wetlands and soil.) 

The Air Resources Board’s staff’s preferred option, known as Scenario 3, projects that carbon removal technologies will capture nearly 80 million tons of carbon dioxide from polluting facilities per year by 2045. The scenario predicts that carbon removal infrastructure will be installed on most oil refineries by 2030 and on all cement, clay, glass and stone facilities by 2045.

​​A panel of experts speaking at a meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies on Tuesday discussed the pros and cons of carbon capture and storage and how it could inform the types of policies lawmakers push for. Much of the hearing centered on the controversy behind the practice and whether it did more harm than good.

The panelists provided vastly different accounts on its effectiveness, frustrating some lawmakers, who said the comments were inconsistent. 

“The frustrating thing for me is that we have conflicts on what we’re hearing today, so how do I do the right thing for my constituents or the environment?” said state Sen. Brian Dahle, a Republican from Lassen County who is running for governor. “That’s very challenging for a legislator, sitting here with four panelists not all agreeing as we’re trying to move to the future.”

Some experts at the hearing said carbon removal plants could capture more than 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions

George Peridas is director of carbon management partnerships at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federally-funded research facility. He said California is well-positioned to launch projects in parts of the state with deep sedimentary rock formations, including the Central Valley, which could serve as prime locations to store carbon dioxide. 

“The Central Valley has a world class geology – that means just the right kinds of rocks for safe and permanent storage,” he said. “Carbon capture and storage is well-understood, heavily regulated, available for deployment today and has an overwhelmingly positive track record.” 

Globally 27 carbon capture and storage projects are operating so far.

Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University professor of civil and environmental engineering, told the legislators that the state is overstating the impact of carbon capture and storage, citing the capture rate of existing facilities that have produced much lower results. 

He said the net capture rate is much lower because the fuels that are used to operate the equipment offset the emissions it swallows. 

For instance, the Petra Nova carbon capture and storage project in Texas, which operates on natural gas, was designed to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide. But the emissions generated from powering the plant bring down the capture rate to about 33%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

“Carbon capture and storage is well-understood, heavily regulated, available for deployment today and has an overwhelmingly positive track record.”

George Peridas, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The Shell Quest carbon capture and storage project in Canada has also been widely scrutinized. The plant captured 5 million tons of carbon dioxide since 2015, but it also emitted 7.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases over the same period – the equivalent carbon footprint of about 1.2 million gas cars, according to a 2022 report from Global Witness, an international watchdog organization. That means just 48 percent of the plant’s carbon emissions were captured, according to the report. 

“It’s nothing close to what we would need to solve a climate problem,” Jacobsen said. “Completely useless.” 

Sarah Saltzer, managing director of the Stanford Center for Carbon Storage and the Stanford Carbon Initiative, said the technology will improve in the coming decades. She said the state should streamline carbon removal projects to advance its carbon-reduction goals. 

“We cannot rely on renewables alone as we do not have the capacity,” she said. “We believe that including carbon capture and storage and a wide range of portfolio options for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide provide a way to deal with hard-to-decarbonize sectors.” 

In its analysis, air board staff said the facilities could have more benefits as they increasingly become powered by renewables and more companies start to invest in them.

Carbon capture “is nothing close to what we would need to solve a climate problem. Completely useless.”

Mark Jacobson, Stanford University

Carbon removal technology also has potential to produce hydrogen until the state can develop more hydrogen plants powered by renewables, according to the report. Most hydrogen today is produced by oil refining but officials expect the state will transition to “green hydrogen,”which is produced by splitting water atoms using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.  

Environmental justice groups say carbon capture will prolong dependence on the fossil fuel industry. They also worry pipeline ruptures and leakages and the continued operation of polluting facilities would keep harming the environment and health of nearby communities. 

In a plea to lawmakers, Steven Feit, an attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law, said the state should not push for carbon capture projects if it truly seeks to phase out fossil fuels. 

“Carbon capture and storage is pitched as one simple trick that can solve the genuine challenge of hard-to-abate emissions, but it may actually make the climate problem worse.” he said. “It will be a lifeline for emitting facilities and will lock in fossil fuels for decades to come.” 

Jacobsen, of Stanford University, said the state should instead prioritize direct emissions reductions and renewables. “It can be done,” he said. “It’s far better to use renewable energy to replace fossil fuels.” 

On the other hand, the oil industry is asking the air board to increase the plan’s reliance on carbon capture, saying it would ease the economic harm and job losses that would occur from phasing out fossil fuels.

“Our industry supports, invests in and is innovating towards more use of carbon capture technology,” said Kevin Slagle, a spokesperson for the Western States Petroleum Association, which represents oil and gas companies. “It’s simple, our state will not meet our climate goals without carbon capture and storage. This should be an area of agreement and opportunity rather than controversy.”

Implementing the scoping plan’s strategies would cost $18 billion in 2035, ramping up to $27 billion in 2045, the air board estimates.

Less reliance on cap and trade

The dispute over carbon removal mirrors a common refrain over the benefits of cap and trade. 

In an earlier version of the scoping plan, air board officials in 2017 estimated about 38% of emissions reductions would come from cap and trade. But this year’s proposed plan leans more heavily on carbon removal technologies, a move that Cullenward said is “striking” considering the role the cap and trade program had in the past.  

“The absence of an explanation is something that should be clarified,” he said at an Independent Emissions Market Advisory Committee meeting last week.

While the pace of emission reductions needs to more than triple to hit California’s 2030 target, just six pages of the 228-page scoping plan address how cap and trade is expected to contribute to that goal — with no detailed analysis of how significant that role will be. 

“I continue to be frustrated by the lack of transparency and accountability from the Air Resources Board in this process overall.”

Catherine Garoupa White, state’s Environmental Justice advisory Committee

Air board officials said they will evaluate the cap and trade program in 2023 and provide more details after the scoping plan is voted on by the board this summer.

The cap and trade program, which puts a price on pollution, has long been a key state policy to reduce pollutants emitted by companies that are subject to state emissions caps. But it also has been widely criticized by legislators, analysts and environmental justice groups. For years, companies have been banking the credits that allow them to pollute, creating an oversupply of allowances in the system that could deter them from meeting future emissions targets. 

Catherine Garoupa White, a member of the state’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, said the plan should have included substantial reforms to the program, including a tighter emissions cap, reducing the number of allowances currently in circulation, establishing no-trading zones in disadvantaged communities and eliminating the use of offsets and distribution of free allowances. 

“I continue to be frustrated by the lack of transparency and accountability from the Air Resources Board in this process overall,” she said. “The explanation on cap and trade is very short and ambiguous in this giant document. The carbon market is unpredictable and there’s a lack of evidence that the program is going to provide the emission reductions that we need.” 

Meredith Fowlie, a professor at University of California, Berkeley’s department of agricultural and resource economics who also serves on the state’s environmental justice committee, said it is critical to address concerns about the scoping plan and how cap and trade factors in sooner rather than later. 

“The modeling is complicated … but given the high stakes, I think we’ve got to find a way to make it more transparent,” she said. “It’s essential that we tackle the issue right now.” 

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Monday, April 25, 2022

On This Day: 30th Anniversary of the Cape Mendocino Earthquake

Posted By on Mon, Apr 25, 2022 at 12:21 PM

Editor's note: Thirty years ago today, a magnitude-7.2 earthquake struck near the coast of Petrolia, shaking the ground with the strongest accelerations ever before measured in California, the first of three strong temblors that would rock the region over 24-hours.

To mark the date, the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group today announced a new web page to remember the event, which includes a video, "
A virtual tour of the Mendocino triple junction.”

Meanwhile, here's a look back at a 2017 Journal piece from the quake's silver anniversay along with the stories readers shared about their memories of those days back in 1992.

Two Days that Shook Humboldt

Twenty-five years have passed since that warm spring morning on April 25, 1992, when the Cascadia subduction zone delivered a far-reaching message — a magnitude-7.2 earthquake that shook the ground with a force never before recorded in California.

At 11:06 a.m. the streets appeared to pitch and roll as windows shattered, houses were knocked off foundations and a 15-mile-long section of coastline near Petrolia was thrust several feet in the air, leaving tidepool creatures trapped above the ocean's reach.

The same movement caused a corresponding drop in the Eel River Valley floor.

But Mother Nature was not done yet. The next morning came with two powerful aftershocks — a 6.5 and 6.6 — amid a series of smaller ones. Those who experienced it say it almost seemed like the earth would never stop shaking.

Although the quakes left rattled nerves, more than $60 million in damage and nearly 100 injuries, only a small corner of the Cascadia subduction zone broke loose that day.

Had the rupture continued farther along the 600-mile mega thrust fault that runs from Cape Mendocino to Vancouver Island, the result could have been a magnitude-8 or even a magnitude-9, according to Humboldt State University geology professor Lori Dengler, who was in her McKinleyville home when the first quake struck.

"It was certainly more than a wake-up call ... but no matter how you look at that, we were incredibly lucky," she says. "I think it's our duty to put the good graces of Mother Nature to work and to be prepared when the bigger one comes."

While the potential of the Cascadia subduction zone was only known to a small group of geologists and seismologists before 1992, dire warnings about the fault's capabilities have since garnered coverage in major publications, including the New York Times and The Atlantic.

One of the main changes that came about after the Cape Mendocino quake was a general awakening to the near-shore tsunami danger lurking off the West Coast. A small one hit soon after the shaking stopped in 1992, washing away the established belief that the threat would come from far away with hours of warning time.

That realization laid the groundwork for the creation of the National Tsunami Mitigation Hazard Program and the modern mapping, hazard modeling, warning and education systems now in place.

"Mother Nature was actually being very kind to us," Dengler says. "We got an earthquake that did some damage but didn't kill anybody. It raised awareness and we are so much better prepared now than in '92."

The powerful temblors not only transformed the world's understanding of what the clash of tectonic plates off our coast is capable of unleashing but also left an indelible mark on our landscape and those who rode out the seismic waves.

Here are some of their stories.

Wedding Day Jitters

I was standing outside waiting for the bride and groom to arrive for their beautiful outdoor wedding ceremony, when the Earth began to shake. With no doorway or table to hide under, I stood there trying to keep my balance. As I looked up, the bride came running and screaming out of the old Victorian house she was getting ready in — in her bra and petticoat! Not a memory I will ever forget, even though I was only 10 at the time.

— Sarah Weltsch

Change of Plans

The 1989 Loma Prieta quake still fresh in our minds, I still lived in Martinez (Contra Costa County), while my daughter was then a student at HSU, living off-campus in a second story apartment on Erie Street in Eureka. I had driven up on Friday for what was supposed to be a fun women's weekend of R&R. We were just getting ready to go out the door for the day when the first (7.2) quake hit. Being third and fourth generation California natives, it took us only a Nano-second to figure out what was happening. And we did exactly what you are not supposed to do: flew outside and down the stairs, and I mean flew — neither of us even remember doing it. We'd been speaking face-to-face/eye-to-eye when it hit, and the next thing we knew we were in the parking lot.

I remember being confused by what seemed to be the surprisingly long time it took for any information to come over the radio, as this was obviously not just another average run-of-the-mill California temblor to which we're all accustomed.

But here was our takeaway: Not only did that weekend's experience cure both of us of ever again sleeping naked, but we both also slept in our eyeglasses for about two years!

— Catherine Barnes

'I Could See the Ground Rolling'

Eleven a.m. on Saturday, April 25, I was alone and driving to Eureka. Just before the Slough Bridge it felt like I was getting a flat tire. I pulled to the right and soon learned my tires were fine, it was the ground that had a problem. My little Honda Accord hatchback started to violently rock back and forth so badly that I seriously thought it was going to tip over. I could see the ground rolling like the ocean waves, a truly surreal phenomenon, and it felt like it would never stop! Eventually, the shaking calmed a bit, so I quickly, but cautiously, drove over the bridge. It was so bad that I fully expected it all (the bridge, my car, me) to crash into the water. I pulled into the Montgomery Ward's parking lot where others had also stopped and gotten out of their cars. I looked over at an older woman and said, "That was a big one, wasn't it!?!" She laughed and said, "Yeah, honey, I'd say it was!"

At this point, the light poles were still swaying back and forth. The windows were rattling so hard that I could see the glass moving in waves and feared they'd all snap and shatter (they didn't). I had no way of contacting anyone, cell phones existed only in the movies and were a couple of decades away from becoming the norm, so I had to drive back to McKinleyville with no idea of how much danger I might be in. There was no way to know how big the quake was, no way to talk to friends or family, and no way to know how the buildings and people in my life fared through what I knew was the worst earthquake in my lifetime. As I drove, I kept looking for any sign of a tsunami on the bay and, at each building I passed, checking for rubble. It was probably the most scared I've ever been in my life. I didn't like earthquakes before but this (and the two that followed later that night) gave me a very (un)healthy phobia that I have to this day. Ugh! It was five weeks before my wedding and I remember being hypervigilant as I kneeled at the altar in St. Bernard's, looking at the walls and ceiling, absolutely terrified that we'd have another one, and praying to God we wouldn't.

— Cathy Tobin

‘Like Elephants Dancing on the Roof’

I was 8 years old, in the big tan Presbyterian Church on 11th in Arcata, mom was at a Scottish dance group that practiced in the main room there. I remember hearing rumbling and creaking — like elephants dancing around on the roof when the earthquake started. My brother and I had been playing in the Sunday school room and we ducked under the table there, until mom called us out. We ran out and noticed the big chandeliers swaying overhead, and then went outside to join all of the Scottish dancers in the parking lot behind the church. There we experienced some strong aftershocks that were really disorienting. Really memorable quake!

— Allison Curtis

'I'll Never Forget It'

I was riding my bike home from Marshall Elementary and car alarms started going off and it felt like I was riding on waves. I fell off my bike and flagged a stranger to drive me home because I was too scared to ride my bike home. Those were the good 'ole days when you could get in a stranger's car. I was only 10 then, too! I'll never forget it.

— Nick Jones

'I Have Always Been so Grateful'

On the evening of Friday, April 24, 1992, I had just given birth to my beautiful baby girl. My second child in less than a year.

On Saturday the 25th, I was on the operating table at General Hospital preparing to have a pregnancy-related procedure. When the quake struck, the anesthesia was just starting to take effect, but I remember seeing the big overhead light swing back and forth. The anesthesiologist flung himself over me to block any possible falling debris (I don't remember any falling) and the doctor was in the doorway, holding on tight. Needless to say my procedure was postponed.

Meanwhile, my almost 16-hour-old newborn was at the nurses' station. She had been in my room before I went into surgery and hadn't made it back to the nursery yet. The nurse working next to my baby picked her up out of the bassinet and put her under the nurses' counter with her. They were both fine. I have always been so grateful to that nurse.

We (my daughter and I) were still in the hospital when the aftershocks came. We were fine. But I would find out later that my 10 ½-month-old son was at home with his dad and traumatized. His dad had panicked, picked him up out of his crib and hunkered down under the kitchen table with him. Through the kitchen window my son watched a transformer from the nearby power pole explode. Needless to say, he was terrified.

It took a long time for my son to be able to sleep through the night again and to be away from me for any length of time. We are all fine now. And I want to, belatedly, thank the wonderful nurses and staff at General Hospital for taking such good care of me and my baby girl that weekend in 1992.

— Heidi Erickson

Hitting the Wall

I remember jumping out of my bed and running for the door but hitting the wall because the door moved (LOL).

— Nikki Mahouski

Giving the Table a Turn

I was six years old. I remember when the first one struck I ran to the doorway, like most of my family, because it's what the earthquake drills taught us. My mom had a collection of different colored antique bottles on the window sills in the living room and I remember seeing them topple off. I remember in a successive one that I decided to duck under the kitchen table instead because the drills were like "in a doorway or under a table!" (Back then at least) and I felt like I should give the table a turn since I'd already used the doorway. That's how my 6-year-old self handled it; I don't think I was terribly concerned.

— Mariah Bowline

'We Could Not Believe the Damage'

On the morning of April 25, 1992, I drove from Fortuna to Ferndale to visit my friend Jerry Lesandro, who was the curator of the Ferndale Museum at that time. I was surprised to see so many people in town as I did not realize there was a parade that day. I went into the museum and sat down to talk to Jerry while he was getting ready for a most likely busy day. I remember two women volunteers standing near him as we talked. Just after 11 a.m. Jerry and I looked at each other and smiled saying, "Oh, I feel a little tremor."

Just then the building started shaking like crazy. I stood up and made my way to the doorway to hold on. I could not believe how difficult it was to walk. Jerry and the two women fell down as tiles and light fixtures fell from the ceiling. I thought to myself, "This is it!" The sound of falling items and of the building creaking was so loud! It seemed like it was never going to stop. After the shaking came to a halt, Jerry rounded everyone together and asked us all to leave. He locked the museum up and we ran outside. I was shocked to see a house off of its foundation across the street. I followed Jerry as we ran through Main Street. It was chaos.

I saw my friend Kathy holding her head as blood ran down her face. She was unfortunately in front of a store window when it broke and fell on her. I remember seeing Stan Dixon doing his best to calm everyone down and asking home owners if they had any damage. I went with Jerry to his and Larry Martin's Victorian home on Berding Street to assess any damage. When Jerry opened the door he started cussing a blue streak. The hall was littered with broken antique items, pictures were tilting nearly off the walls and furniture had been knocked over. A heavy dresser upstairs had traveled across the room and had then tipped over.

I helped Jerry straighten up a few items and then decided to head home to check on my house, my cat and on my parents. Traffic was slow and bumper to bumper. I pulled over at Tom and Maura Eastman's home, a cute red Mansard near Ferndale High School. It had fallen straight down about 3 to 5 feet off of its foundation. It was so weird to see the front steps leading to an area above the door! Maura was out front so I asked if she was OK. She cried and I hugged her. She was lucky to not have been injured.

I left and remember being on the bridge at Fernbridge having to stop due to a backup of vehicles. I felt an aftershock and heard a young man yelling from his truck for traffic to speed up so that he could get off the bridge. I had to admit, that was a scary place to be at that time. My parents were fine and their home had no damage. I drove to my rental and was surprised to see that not much had fallen.

Late in the afternoon, my partner Chris had come home from work and we decided to go to Ferndale to see if we could help Jerry and Larry. We drove to Rio Dell and took the back road into Ferndale from Blue Slide Road as we heard that no one was to enter Ferndale via Fernbridge. An officer stopped us and asked if we lived in Ferndale and we lied and said that we lived on Berding Street. (We wanted to help our friends).

The town was a mess. We could not believe the damage that we saw. Several hours later while back home, we were awakened by the first big aftershock (which I say was another earthquake due to its magnitude) in the middle of the night. This time, items were falling off shelves and the walls. My cat was terrified. I felt helpless listening to things breaking. Again, I thought the shaking would never stop. After the second aftershock I gave up trying to pick things up and Chris and I spent the rest of the night on our deck, too upset to stay in the house. We watched the sunrise and hoped that the worst was over. I cannot believe that it has been 25 years!

— Lyn Iversen

1992 Earthquake Story

I moved to Ferndale in 1989 after purchasing an older historic home. Over the next three years I had heard and read about how seismically active the area was and had become accustomed to what I called “bumps in the night” when the house would kind of shudder and the suspended lights would sway slightly back and forth.

On the morning of April 25, 1992, I took my son downtown to participate in a parade as part of the first (and last) Wild West Days. My son was on a small pony which, like many of the other horses in the parade, seemed somewhat “spooked” and I had to hold the reins tight in my hands to keep the pony in line. As the parade came to an end I hurried back to my house to pick up my cat that had an 11 a.m. appointment at the Ferndale Veterinary on the outskirts of town. I loaded my son and the cat in the car and headed down Main Street a little late for my appointment. Just past the intersection with Main and Herbert Street, my car suddenly started lurching from one side to the other. At first I thought I had a flat tire. As the lurching continued I thought maybe I had two flat tires as the movement was very strong. About that time I noticed the power lines and trees swinging violently, which was strange as there was little to no wind. As the seconds passed I finally realized this was an “EARTHQUAKE!” No sooner had I realized what was going on than it all stopped.

Several cars continued down Main Street so I decided to continue on to my vet appointment. After parking the car I grabbed my cat and walked into the front office where I encountered a real mess as a fish aquarium had crashed to the floor resulting in broken glass, water and flopping fish everywhere. I looked at the startled staff and quickly announced, “I would come back at a later time.”

As I returned to my car and started driving back down Main Street toward my house I was shocked by the view of several houses which had been shaken from their foundations. One house which had previously been elevated with stairs to the front door had dropped to the point where the stairs now led to the second story. As I turned off Main Street I continued to encounter houses where the front porch or side buildings had separated from the main house. Finally, I turned onto my street where my house came into view. As my house has horizontal siding the first view revealed that everything was still horizontal. I also have a front porch with concrete stairs to the front door so I was relieved that the porch was still connected to my house. I did not see any obvious exterior damage. I removed the cat and my son from the car and walked into my house where I encountered another mess.

The TV had nosed-dived onto the floor. Potted plants had tipped over spreading dirt everywhere. In the kitchen, plates, cups and glasses were strewn across the floor. As most of my kitchenware was plastic there was not a lot of broken anything. Pictures hanging on the walls were askew but remained hanging so no damage there. A quick look at the walls and ceilings revealed some small cracks in the sheet rock over doorways but no other damage was apparent. The refrigerator and electric range remained in their original location and the water heater, enclosed in a small side-space, appeared stable. The most damage to the interior was in my laundry room where several cans of paint stored on shelves had flown across the room spilling paint across the floor and the washer and dryer. I did my best to clean up this mess but much of the paint stains remained for further clean-up at a late time.

My son and I spent most of the rest of the day cleaning up the spilled dirt, picking up the plates and things that had left the cupboards during the violence and hanging out in the yard feeling a bit more safe outside than inside. By late afternoon I had heard about the collapse of the Valley Grocery, which was the only unreinforced masonry building on Main Street, but only one person was injured and there were no fatalities that anyone was aware of. By the end of the day, we settled into our evening routine. Being without power we had to resort to a Coleman lantern and gas stove to cook dinner. After reading both my son and myself to sleep we settled in for the night.

Suddenly around 1:30 a.m. in the early morning of the 26th, our house started to shake violently as if being grabbed and shaking by a giant. Once again I could hear the dishes crashing to the floor, and the TV doing its nose-dive. The plants and cans of paint remained on the floor so no more damage there. Amazingly, my son did not even wake up. I grabbed a flashlight I had kept next to my bed and quickly looked through the house to see if there was any damage that would suggest the house was in danger of collapsing or otherwise be hazardous. Assuring myself that it was safer to stay indoors and not finding any reason to leave the house I climbed back in bed.

I must have counted thousands of sheep before finally falling back to sleep. Then the giant returned around 4:30 a.m. and once again started shaking the house. By then, I was convinced that California had split off from the North American continent and was now an island. After the second morning quake I was unable to get back to sleep. I fired up the Coleman stove and made some coffee. I was sitting outside on my front porch drinking my coffee and eating a banana when the volunteer fire department drove by giving me some assurance and sense of security that someone was responding to all the wreckage and frayed nerves. The next day I checked with friends and neighbors to see if they suffered any damage to their homes. Some had minor damage while others had homes that survived the first quake but leaped off their foundations during the second or third quake.

Having suffered limited damage, I concluded that having concrete front steps, a remodel that included new posts, bracketed into concrete piers that themselves were placed in concrete and were cross-braced, plus a slab for an extension of what we called the “sun room” as well as back wooden stairs also on piers in concrete meant that whatever direction the house tried to move during the ground shaking it ran into concrete. I also realized that if you are living in an area subject to strong earthquakes, occupying a house made of wood is advisable as a wood structure can “rock and roll’ with the shaking and under most circumstances will not collapse. Not wanting to rest on my laurels, I spent the next year installing new concrete piers in concrete and bolting the piers to posts that are then crossed braced to each other. It took me 12 months to install 19 new posts and piers. It has been awhile since a major earthquake. There have been a few that we definitely felt here in Ferndale and resulted in damage in Eureka and elsewhere, but nothing of the magnitude we felt on those fateful days in April 1992. I have my fingers crossed that if (when) we have another large quake the improvements to the house foundations will put us in much better shape to survive the next “Big One!”

— Michael Sweeney

From the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group:

The Redwood Coast Tsunami Work announces “A virtual tour of the Mendocino triple junction” to mark the 30th anniversary of the Cape Mendocino earthquake sequence.

The April 25, 1992 M7.2 earthquake was the most damaging earthquake to strike California’s North Coast in historical times. Causing at least $60 million in property losses and over 400 injuries, it led to the only federal disaster declaration ever issued after an earthquake in Humboldt County. The earthquake, located near the coast just north of Petrolia, was in the Mendocino triple junction region, a complex zone where three fault systems and three tectonic plates meet. It is the only triple junction on land in the conterminous United States.

The earthquake produced measurable coastal uplift along a 15-mile-long stretch of coastline and a modest tsunami that was recorded on seven tide gauges along the California and Southern Oregon coast and in Hawaii. It was followed in the next 18 hours by magnitude 6.5 and 6.6 aftershocks.

To remember the events of 1992, the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group has launched a new web page ( ). The page includes remembrances of what happened and what has changed in both earthquake and tsunami planning since then. Featured is a new video field trip of the complex Mendocino triple junction area to better understand the complex geology of the Cape Mendocino area where the earthquake occurred and the role it plays in regional earthquake hazards.

The video was produced by Thomas Dunklin, an alum of the Cal Poly Humboldt Geology Department who lives in the Petrolia area and accompanied many of the research teams who worked in the Cape Mendocino area after the earthquake.

The 13-minute video features spectacular drone footage of the remote and rugged triple junction and includes animations of the plate interactions and earthquake activity in the region.

The video project was supported by CalOES with funding from FEMA through NEHERP and donations to RCTWG from the public. Feedback appreciated (

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Two Additional COVID Deaths Reported in Humboldt County

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2022 at 3:38 PM

Humboldt County Public Health reported today that the county has confirmed two COVID-19 deaths since its last report April 6: One was a resident age 80 or older and the other was an individual in their 50s.

One new hospitalization was also reported today but, according to a state database, eight people are currently hospitalized with the virus locally, including two under intensive care, and there is another suspected COVID-19 case. The deaths reported today are the 142nd and 143rd in Humboldt County since the pandemic began.

Find the full public health press release, which includes a schedule of upcoming vaccination clinics, here.
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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Report to California Legislature: Prepare for Devastating Effects of Climate Change

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2022 at 10:43 AM

Wildfire smoke turned Humboldt County skies orange throughout the day in September of 2020. These pictures are from around 9:30 a.m. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Wildfire smoke turned Humboldt County skies orange throughout the day in September of 2020. These pictures are from around 9:30 a.m.
Painting alarming scenes of fires, floods and economic disruption, the California Legislature’s advisors on Tuesday released a series of reports that lay out in stark terms the impacts of climate change across the state.

The typically reserved, nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office outlined dire consequences for Californians as climate change continues to alter most aspects of daily life. Much of the focus of the six-part series is detailing the economic cost as the changing climate alters where and how Californians build, grow food and protect the most vulnerable residents. 

  • Wildfires, heat and floods will force more frequent school closures, disrupting education, child care and availability of free school lunches. More than 1,600 schools temporarily closed because of wildfires each year between 2017 and 2020, affecting nearly a million students a year.
  • Outdoor workers — 10 percent of California’s workforce and mostly Latino — will continue to bear the brunt of extreme heat and smoke.
  • Wildfire smoke may have killed about 20 people per 100,000 adults older than 65 in 2020, and is projected to become more deadly. Just a 50 percent increase in smoke could cause the deaths of nine to 20 additional people among every 100,000 older residents exposed each year.
  • Housing, rail lines, bridges, power plants and other structures are vulnerable to rising seas and tides. “Between $8 billion and $10 billion of existing property in California is likely to be underwater by 2050, with an additional $6 billion to $10 billion at risk during high tide.”
  • Extreme heat is projected to cause nine deaths per 100,000 people each year, “roughly equivalent to the 2019 annual mortality rate from automobile accidents in California.”
  • Lower-income Californians, who live in communities at greater risk for heat and floods because of discriminatory housing practices, will be hit especially hard by climate change and have fewer resources to adapt.
  • Housing will be lost: For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area alone, 13,000 existing housing units and 104,000 job spaces “will no longer be usable” because of sea rise over the next next 40 to 100 years.
  • Beaches will disappear, too: Up to two-thirds of Southern California beaches may become completely eroded by 2100.

The report’s unsaid but unambiguous conclusion: Climate change could alter everything, spare no one in California, so legislators should consider preparing for sweeping impacts.

“These hazards will threaten public health, safety, and well-being — including from life-threatening events, damage to public and private property and infrastructure, and impaired natural resources,” the reports say.

Scientists say it’s not too late to stop the most severe effects, although the clock is ticking. Technologies and other solutions already exist to reduce greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and other sources and prevent more irreversible harm, according to a landmark international scientific report released Monday. But international accords and plans continue to fall far short, with emissions expected to keep increasing

“These hazards will threaten public health, safety, and well-being — including from life-threatening events, damage to property and infrastructure, and impaired natural resources.”

Legislative Analyst’s Office report

California’s legislative analysts did not conduct new research; instead, they compiled existing data and projections, providing a comprehensive clearinghouse for legislators as they enact policies and approve budgets.

State Sen. Bob Wieckowski, a Democrat from Fremont and chair of the budget subcommittee on resources, environmental protection and energy, said he plans to turn to the reports as references and rationale for the subcommittee’s budget proposals. 

“It’s impressive,” he said. “(It) turns the climate conversation into an all-hands-on-deck versus, ‘Oh, this is just some tree hugger over here.’” 

The analysts make no explicit policy recommendations but they advise legislators to consider such questions as: How can the state avoid exacerbating climate impacts? How can lawmakers protect the most vulnerable Californians? And how should California pay to prepare and respond to climate change? 

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from South Gate, asked the Legislative Analyst’s Office to assess the impacts of climate change on a variety of policy sectors, and the reports grew from there. They frame climate change as a complex, multi-disciplinary problem that requires response from all of the state’s agencies.

Project manager Rachel Ehlers said the aim is to assist lawmakers incorporate climate change into decisions outside of traditionally environmental realms, including housing, health and education. For instance, would a new housing policy “have the potential to inadvertently worsen climate change impacts?” she said.

Last year’s budget package reflected the overarching scope of the problem, proposing to spend $9.3 billion over three years to bolster the state’s responses to drought, floods, fire and sea level rise. 

Despite the state’s climate-forward reputation, critics and many legislators note that California’s follow-through has been inconsistent.

The reports come in the lead-up to California Gov. Gavin’s Newsom’s May revision to his January budget blueprint, when the administration can reframe and update its proposals. Thus far, the proposed budget included more than $22 billion for climate change efforts that include protecting communities against wildfires and extreme heat. 

Despite the state’s climate-forward reputation, critics and many legislators note that California’s follow-through has been inconsistent.

“I don’t at all feel that we are leading the world anymore,” Rendon, a Democrat from South Gate, told CalMatters last year. 

Despite the passage of a $15 billion climate budget, California Environmental Voters, an advocacy group, gave the state its first “D” grade for what it called its climate inaction last year. 

“We’re plagued by ‘climate delayers’ in Sacramento – members of the Legislature who talk about climate change but don’t back up those words with action,” CEO Mary Creasman wrote in a CalMatters commentary

Last month, a coalition of California’s environmental justice advocacy organizations pushed for a phase-out of fossil fuels, and warned that clean air regulators have failed to adequately consider public health in crafting the state’s blueprint for curbing greenhouse gas pollution. 

California is already reeling from climate change

The analysis made clear that many of the worst consequences are already here, even as it noted that future impacts are coming sooner and may be worse than scientists had predicted.

Summer temperatures scorched records as the state’s second-largest wildfire tore across Northern California during the third-driest year on record for rain and snowfall. California must brace for yet more climate hazards, the reports warn, from extreme heat to more severe wildfires, whiplash from drought to flood and sea level rise along the coast. 

Drought clutches California and a statewide heat wave forecast for Wednesday is poised to sap the remaining snowpack that supplies about a third of the state’s water. California’s firefighting arm warns that a record-dry start to the year could spell a devastating fire season ahead.

It’s a disaster drumbeat Californians have heard many times before. The Legislative Analyst’s Office has released report after report assessing the state’s climate policies and spending. It has warned that sea level rise will submerge billions of dollars in homes, roads and businesses by 2050, and that the state must accelerate planning to protect state assets including college campuses, prisons and even state workers from soaring heat, flooding, fire and extreme weather.

Newsom’s administration launched a preemptive response to the reports, with the Monday release of its updated climate adaptation strategy. The guidelines pull together plans from 38 departments and address priority issues, such as protecting communities vulnerable to climate change and combating risks to health and safety. 

California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said the strategy is “a matter of protecting our residents and our communities or natural places from climate threats that are already here.” 

State officials regularly recalibrate the official response to climate change, often in response to dire reports. Four years ago, California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment released under former Gov. Jerry Brown warned that climate change would lead to death and property damage on the order of tens of billions of dollars by 2050. 

Though the reports were focused largely on how California must adapt to the ravages of climate change, the Legislative Analyst’s Office has also warned repeatedly that California’s landmark greenhouse gas market, cap and trade, will fail to meet California’s goals to reduce emissions

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