Quakes rattle California's Imperial Valley

08/27/2012 04:45:00 PM
Mike Hornick

A series of earthquakes in the Brawley, Calif., disrupted off-peak business at some grower-shippers, but damages appeared modest.

“We’ve had over 350 in a 24-hour period,” Daren Van Dyke, director of sales and marketing at Brawley-based Five Crowns Marketing, said Aug. 27. “Three were over 5 (on the Richter scale) and the rest were small aftershocks.”

At Brawley-based Sahara Packing Co., computer monitors and other office equipment fell over but seemed to remain in working order, said Jim Healy, an accountant.

“There was some broken glass and pots and a few cracks in the plaster outside, but we’re in halfway decent shape,” he said.

“I was having trouble keeping my sanity,” said Tyler Colace, a salesman at Five Crowns Marketing. “It was just the sheer volume of it. If you didn’t feel one for five minutes, you were anticipating it. It’s unnerving.”

There was minor structural damage to an office, but facilities were intact. Across the street, a grocery store lost much of what was on its shelves.

“We walked into our office and there was a small sub-wall down,” Van Dyke said. “But nothing to our cooling facilities. Fortunately, we were planning to remodel our office anyway, so it gave us a kind of head start.”

The remodel was planned for mid-September, said Colace, who is working offsite. Because it’s offseason in Brawley, the timing was not the worst possible.

“If we were in the midst of harvesting 40,000 cantaloupes a day, I’d have to be there,” he said. “We’re working some ground for broccoli, but it’s all in the planting stages right now.”

Sugar beets have finished harvesting in Brawley, or nearly so. In September, Five Crowns Marketing will have lemons out of the Crown Citrus facility in nearby Calipatria. The company sources fall melons from Yuma, Ariz.

Corn is also expected in the fall in Brawley, Van Dyke said. In winter, Salinas-based companies like Boggiatto Produce and Coastline Produce harvest lettuce in the Imperial Valley.

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