Microgrid Keeps Airport Up and Running After Earthquake

The 6.4 earthquake struck Humboldt County, California before dawn Tuesday, leaving more than 70,000 residents in the dark.

The California Redwood Coast Humboldt County Airport (KACV) did not lose power following the 6.4 earthquake. [Credit: Google]

At 2:34 a.m. on December 20, a 6.4 earthquake struck Humboldt County, California, knocking out the power to more than 70,000 customers. 

One place that did not lose power, however, is California Redwood Coast Humboldt County Airport (KACV), which has power owing to its microgrid.

The airport is located in McKinleyville, north of Arcata. Arcata is home to Cal Poly Humboldt, the most northern school in the California State University system. School officials noted that the campus is closed because of the power outage, but thus far no damage has been found.

There were no reports of damage at KACV either, as airport officials were quick to post on the Fly ACV Facebook page.

The Facebook post continues to advise people to check with their airlines for the most up to date information.

The airport was built in the 1940s to support the U.S. Navy, which took advantage of the heavy fog on the coast to develop defogging systems. The airport has two runways: Runway 14/32, measuring 6,046 feet by 150 feet and Runway 1/19, measuring 4,501 feet by 150 feet.

About the Quake

The epicenter was reported to be in Ferndale, a city with a population of approximately 1,400, known for its gingerbread Victorian homes and its appeal to movie producers—"Outbreak," "The Majestic," "Kingdom Come," "Joe Dirt," and "Salem's Lot" were filmed there.

Ferndale is approximately 210 miles north of San Francisco. This part of northern California is remote, which is a polite way of saying there is limited ground access. Highway 101 runs north to south, and as the quake hit in the middle of the night there were several tense hours while the authorities waited for the light of day to determine the extent of the damage to both persons and property. There have been reports of two deaths attributed to medical emergencies that happened during or just after the temblor, along with a handful of injuries. There have been in excess of 50 aftershocks. Damage reported thus far includes houses off their foundations, broken water mains, buckled roads and bridges, shattered windows, and fallen household objects.

Pacific Gas and Electric, which provides electricity to most of Humboldt County reported in excess of 70,000 customers without power and there is no estimation on when service will be restored.

Humboldt County has a total of six airports, the only one handling commercial service is KACV.

The others are used primarily by general aviation pilots; they are Dinsmore (D63), Gaberville (O16), Kneeland (O19), Rohnerville (KFOT) near Fortuna, and Murray Field (KEKA) north of Eureka.

According to airnav.com, all the airports are operated by the county and have the same manager, Cody Roggatz. FLYING made several attempts to reach Roggatz but was unsuccessful as of press time.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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