Teen survivor recalls recovery after quake

Cracked and battered buildings have been repaired. Homes have been cleared of shattered dishes, glasses and heirlooms. But at Monday’s remembrance on the first anniversary of the Napa earthquake, perhaps the most vital symbol of recovery was a clean-cut, curly-haired teenage boy in a blue oxford shirt and a bow tie — a boy who was again standing straight.

“My name is Nicholas Dillon, and I’m grateful to be standing here on my own two feet,” the Napa teen told some 400 spectators at Napa Strong 6.0/365, the ceremony marking the quake of Aug. 24, 2014.

One woman died and about 200 people were injured in the magnitude-6.0 earthquake. But the recovery of Dillon, who was crushed by bricks from his collapsing living-room chimney, became one of Napa’s most followed stories during the weeks afterward.

Experts weigh Napa’s future quake risks

A year after the South Napa Earthquake, what is the risk of the ground thrashing again — and how might Napans best protect their homes and themselves?

The West Napa Fault, which triggered the magnitude-6.0 quake that struck Napa one year ago Monday, may not shake so violently again for a thousand years or more … or it could unload again tomorrow. But geologists say a host of slightly more distant underground seams in the earth — including the San Andreas and Hayward faults — could present an even greater threat to Napa County.

Meanwhile, a post-quake survey shows that less than one Napa homeowner in 10 carries earthquake insurance, a lack of protection state-sponsored insurers are trying to correct – particularly in a valley with soft soils and older architecture likely to intensify the damage of quakes yet to come.

Discovered by geologists in 1976, the West Napa Fault is a subterranean break that starts in Benicia and runs west of Highway 29 to Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park south of Calistoga. Though its slippage had caused a magnitude-5.2 quake in the Napa Valley in 2000, the fault had been rated a much smaller threat than the larger, more famous faults bordering the valley to the east and west.

Then the fault shifted again, in the predawn hours of Aug. 24, 2014 – producing more than $400 million in damage, fires, a dozen injuries and one death. The quake proved the Bay Area’s most powerful since Loma Prieta in 1989.

Ag committee proposes countywide growth summit

Napa County’s agricultural protection committee sees a sequel to its now-completed work – it wants the county and its cities to hold a summit addressing regional land use and transportation issues.

This growth summit would be different from the all-day session the Napa County Board of Supervisors and county Planning Commission held on March 10.

The Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee wants city officials to also be part of a talk on the region’s future.

“That’s something way beyond our ability to do something about, but it’s clearly needed, from our discussions,” said Peter McCrea, who represents Napa Valley Vintners on the committee.

Committee member Dan Mufson of Vision 2050 talked about tourism issues that involve not only wineries, but hotels in cities. He, too, wants to see a growth summit among the county and its cities.

“It’s an absolute necessity,” Mufson said after Monday’s APAC meeting. “If they don’t do it, shame on them.”

Earthquake damage estimates remain work in progress

Fifteen seconds of South Napa earthquake shaking resulted in $442.7 million to $800 million in countywide damages — depending whom you ask — and a quest for state and federal reimbursements that could take years to complete.

The magnitude-6.0 quake at 3:20 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2014, did its damage quickly. Shifting soils six miles beneath south county wetlands buckled bridges, cracked roads and walls and knocked historic buildings off foundations.

After the shaking came the number crunching. County and city officials within days estimated that the county suffered $362.4 million in damage to private property and public infrastructure. In addition, the wine industry reported $80.3 million in damage, for a total of $442.7 million.

Federal Emergency Management Agency software called HAZUS helped estimate local damages, county Risk and Emergency Services Manager Kerry John Whitney said recently. Inspectors also checked actual damage and compared it with the HAZUS estimates.

New elementary school principal was a child refugee

Kay Vang moved from Fresno this summer to take over as principal of Canyon Oaks Elementary in American Canyon, a distance of nearly 200 miles. But relocating is nothing new for Vang, whose life has had other big moves in it, including the one that got her to the United States in the first place.

Vang began her life, literally from day one, as a refugee in Thailand.

She is not, however, Thai. She is Hmong, a people whose roots were in Laos until the Vietnam War displaced many of them, including Vang’s parents.

“I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. I came to this country when I was 3,” said Vang from her office at Canyon Oaks just before the start of the new school year. “I didn’t speak a word of English.”

She immediately added, and with pride, “I’m a product of the public school system,” a system to which she has devoted her professional career and strives to improve as a school administrator.

NVUSD studying $447 million in school needs

Napa Valley Unified School District has put together a spending program for the next decade that deals with moving three schools on an earthquake fault, pockets of both student overcrowding and scarcity and replacement of some buildings and facilities that date back to the Kennedy and Eisenhower administrations.

Altogether, the district would like to spend $447 million by 2025 — money that could come from a statewide bond or a potentially a local bond that voters would be asked to approve, Supt. Patrick Sweeney said this week.

After two years of reviewing the needs of its facilities, not to mention dealing with the aftermath of last year’s earthquake, district officials have gone to the school board for help and guidance.

Over the next three months, board members and district officials will be finalizing the district’s “master plan” to determine what projects should go to the top of a lengthy must-do list and how to pay for them.

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