Businesses in California’s wine capital Monday mopped up thousands of dollars in high-end vintages, swept glass from ghostly downtown streets ordinarily bustling with tourists and rushed to reopen in advance of the summer’s last holiday weekend, after a severe earthquake that damaged wineries, historic buildings and hotels.
With the dust still settling from Sunday’s magnitude-6.0 temblor centered near the city of Napa, government and tourism officials assessing its economic and structural impact encouraged visitors to keep flocking to the charming towns, tasting rooms, restaurants and spas that drive the Napa Valley economy.
Though cleanup will take time, and broken water mains remained a problem, they said, the worst damage and disruption was confined to the city’s downtown, where a post office, library and a 141-room hotel were among 150 homes and buildings deemed unsafe to occupy.
The strongest earthquake to hit the San Francisco Bay Area in a quarter-century also caused several injuries, triggered fires that destroyed or damaged six mobile homes and ruptured gas lines.
“Clearly, we are concerned that people are going to see that it was a catastrophe, and it certainly wasn’t good, but it wasn’t a catastrophe by any means,” Clay Gregory, president of tourism organization Visit Napa Valley, said as workers at a shuttered downtown visitors center updated lists of open wineries and surveyed hotels about cancellations. “The real story is that it has impacted a very small part of the valley.”
In Napa Valley, two hotels and 12 wineries still were closed Monday, as well as many of the businesses downtown, he said.
Local officials have an early working estimate that Napa Valley suffered $1 billion in property damage, but they hope the long-term economic impact of the quake to businesses will be modest, Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd said. He said 80 percent of the valley’s 500 or so wineries were unaffected.
If people “think Napa is devastated, it’s anything but devastated. We’re only 24 hours out from an earthquake, and we’re on our way back,” Dodd said.
CoreLogic Eqecat, which models economic losses from disasters, estimates that insured losses from the earthquake could range from $500 million to $1 billion. Vineyards already have started to harvest their grapes, crush them and store the juice. If the earthquake had happened before the harvest, Eqecat notes, the losses would have been lower.
The wine business and associated tourist crowds represent a bulk of Napa County’s economy. Visit Napa Valley estimates that 3 million tourists spend $1.4 billion a year within the county. The Napa Valley Vintners trade association says the industry generates more than $13 billion of economic activity each year, including 46,000 local jobs.
The Napa Valley Wine Train, which offers tourists a three-hour journey through 18 miles of wine country, canceled its service Monday but planned to resume trips today. Other tour operators said they were taking it one day at a time.