As many of you have heard by now, there was a 6.1 earthquake that rocked Napa County this past Sunday morning at 3:30am. Lucky for me (and not so lucky for her), Annie P. was staying with me at my apartment in Napa that night, and we woke up from the noise and violent tremors clutching each other, screaming and cursing. We couldn’t even hear the sound of all my dishes and glassware breaking, or my dresser falling to the floor next to my bed – just the sound of my entire building shaking. It was the most terrifying experience I have ever had, and will probably be one of the most memorable moments of my lifetime.
After 20 seconds of shaking, Annie P. and I were both able to find our phones and a flashlight relatively quickly. Then she heard the sound of water pouring out from somewhere. I opened my bedroom door to this sight:
As the tears came, I heard one of my neighbors yelling outside, “is everyone okay?”. I told her “we’re not hurt, but my apartment is a disaster.” Then my upstairs neighbor came out of his apartment, and told me that his water heater had broke and he needed to turn the water off. So that’s where the leaking was coming from. Water came into my kitchen and mixed with the spilled wine, seeping into the back of my bedroom and bathroom. As Annie P. and I worked quickly to move things from the floor and protect them from water, my neighbors finally found a way to turn the water off.
After surveying the damage in the dark, we realized there was nothing we could do until daylight, so we gathered with my neighbors outside. First we were all attempting to call our parents and loved ones, but Annie P. had the only working phone so she graciously let us use hers. One of my neighbors got out some water for us to drink, and turned on his car radio so we could listen to the coverage. Before we knew it, 5:30am rolled around and a 3.6 aftershock hit, which didn’t do any more damage but it certainly scared the sh*t out of us. The sky began to lighten, and Annie P. and I decided to sleep for a few hours before waking up to search for coffee and clean what we could. I do not know what I would have done without her. I was paralyzed.
As news broke of other damaged properties and wineries, I realized a) there was a lot worse damage than my own, and b) how lucky everyone was that the earthquake occurred at 3:30am so that nobody was in any of the properties with severe destruction. Unbelievably, the winery I work for wasn’t damaged at all – not a broken bottle or barrel in sight. But Napa Valley Register estimates 1 billion dollars worth of damage to Napa County, with much of it coming from the wine industry, whether in barrels, tanks, bottles or structures. Fortunately for some, harvest is nearly upon us so a lot of the wine had already been bottled and moved to other facilities.
One of my favorite wineries, Trefethen, was one of the wineries that had very little wine inside their winemaking facility. But they had structural damage that split parts of the building, making it impossible to enter. They are hopeful – as am I – that they will be able to reconstruct the property without losing too much of the original structure. Silver Oak’s library cellar was basically a pile of wine bottles, some broken and some in tact, but nonetheless shook up. I keep receiving emails from wineries with updates on their damage, but every email starts with how grateful they are for the fact that nobody was hurt. I am still amazed by this, and although the damage to my “stuff” has certainly been an inconvenience, I understand how lucky I am to come out unscathed.
It turns out I only lost about 12 bottles out of 120+, half of which are unfortunately irreplaceable. But I have a load of survivor bottles, and every time I open one I will remember what my new home and I went through, and how we came together, and survived.