Why reporters are drawn to liquor stores after earthquakes

U.S. Geological Survey

A screenshot of earthquake occurrences in the California Nevada region via the U.S. Geological Survey website. The red boxes indicate quakes that have rattled Brawley Sunday.

It was going to be a big news day in Brawley for reporter Celeste Alvarez of the Imperial Valley Press. Dozens of earthquakes were rocking the desert farming town. Time to go to that one place a reporter knows there will be an interesting story:

"I went to one liquor store and all of the liquor was on the floor. There was glass everywhere, and they had been cleaning for about two hours," she said.

The Brawley area gets a lot of earthquakes. A much larger one struck on Easter Sunday in 2010 — that one was a magnitude 7.2.

But Sunday's swarm of smaller quakes — in the 3 to 5 magnitude range — took a toll on families and small business.

Alvarez said the store owners told her they sustained more damage this weekend than during the Easter quake, and they asked her to leave because new earthquakes kept knocking more bottles off the shelves.

There were no serious injuries or damage to public utilities, said Maria Peinado of the Imperial Valley Emergency Operations Center. However, all Brawley public schools were closed on Monday.

During a power outage that occurred near 2 p.m. after one of the larger earthquakes, a 5.5 magnitude, Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley evacuated 49 patients to another hospital in El Centro.

About 20 trailer homes were knocked off their footings, making them unsafe to occupy. The American Red Cross was helping about 70 residents locate emergency housing.

Alvarez saw families in the Campo trailer park on North Imperial Avenue trying to salvage sentimental and essential items from their damaged homes. But the worst of it is not knowing what’s coming next.

"They felt that a bigger one was just going to hit, that these were not the last ones," she said.

By day's end, after more than 100 earthquakes shook the area, they still hit with a startling jolt, but she took it in stride:

"Yeah, no problem, have a great day. And — there goes another one!"

That one was a 4.7 magnitude earthquake. All in a day's work.

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