-- The West Coast was jolted by its largest earthquake in nearly six years, a 7.0 temblor off the Northern California coast Tuesday night that briefly set off tsunami warnings from Canada to Mexico but apparently left no major damage onshore.
Striking about 80 miles west of the coastal community of Crescent City, Calif., the quake was felt as far inland as Sacramento and Eugene, Ore. Yet geologists said it was too far offshore and ultimately too small to create a major ocean surge such the one that killed many thousands in the Indian Ocean more than six months ago.
"We're not expecting anything huge from an event this size," Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, told the Associated Press shortly after the quake struck at 7:50 p.m. Pacific Coast Time.
The ocean quake was enough to trigger evacuations in low-lying areas of Crescent City, where a 1964 tsunami killed 11 people and wiped out half of its downtown.
Jorge Pamplona, the city's acting fire chief, said that his department had not received reports of major damage and that the evacuations had ended. "There was some excitement, but everybody is back in their apartments and homes," he said.
Tsunami warnings were also issued for coastal areas from California's border with Mexico to Vancouver Island, B.C. The warnings were lifted within an hour when no major waves were spotted.
Police in Eureka, Calif., about 90 miles from the quake, said they had received no reports of injury or damage.
Troy Nicolini, a specialist with the National Weather Service in Eureka, told KCAL-TV that the quake "shook a long time but not powerfully."
Witnesses felt buildings shaking along the California coast. "It was just a rolling sensation," said Jim Andresen, a fire captain in Humboldt County who is stationed just outside Eureka, told the Associated Press.
It was the biggest earthquake to strike the West since a 7.1 quake hit the remote Hector Mines area in the Mojave Desert. No one was killed, and there was no major damage. The far more destructive 1994 Northridge and 1989 Lomo Prieta earthquakes, in contrast, measured 6.7 and 6.9, respectively, on the Richter scale. However, they struck in heavily developed areas.