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Number of displaced Humboldt County residents continues to mount after New Year's aftershock

A stone fireplace has been ripped off the side of a home and toppled down, propped up against a car.
Godofredo A. Vásquez
A home damaged by an earthquake can be seen in Rio Dell, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. A strong earthquake shook a rural stretch of Northern California early Tuesday, jolting residents awake, cutting off power to thousands of people, and damaging some buildings and a roadway, officials said.

A 6.4 magnitude quake in late December and a New Year's Day aftershock have left approximately 170 people displaced from their homes.

The original 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit mainly private homes and wealthier parts of the community, according to Rio Dell City Manager Kyle Knopp. But many low-income residents saw their homes destroyed during the second 5.4 magnitude earthquake that was centered in the small Humboldt County town. Those losses include over half of a 49-unit low-income apartment complex.

“In this event, it has definitely hit a poorer section of the community," he said. "One where people have fewer options.”

Knopp said an additional 41 homes have been condemned. He estimates at least 170 people are displaced between the two earthquakes. The Red Cross continues to provide an emergency shelter for residents without other housing options. The shelter is located at Monument Middle School, 95 Center St. in Rio Dell.

According to the Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services, over 70 structures have been deemed unsafe in total across the county.

Knopp said despite two major earthquakes, the region still hasn't met the damage threshold for federal assistance from FEMA.

“These formulas really are not conducive towards helping poorer, rural areas in the state of California or in Oregon that are directly impacted by these types of events," he said.

Knopp and other local leaders are meeting with state emergency officials this week to discuss housing options.

State officials are coming to the county to refine the damage assessments and determine financial losses. Knopp said as damage assessments continue, they may be able to qualify for federal assistance.

Residents are encouraged toreport earthquake damages to the county. Additional resources for recovery are available on the Humboldt County OES website.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.