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KTLA news anchor's on-air reaction to earthquake goes viral

Disasters and AccidentsU.S. Geological Survey

The 4.4-magnitude earthquake that struck Monday near Westwood caught many early risers off guard, but for KTLA-TV Channel 5 news anchor Chris Schauble, it was the shock heard 'round the Internet.

Schauble's expression and ensuing on-air duck-and-cover during the temblor took off on social media almost as quickly as the quake itself.

The quake hit at 6:25 a.m., just as Schauble and his on-air partner, Megan Henderson, were transitioning to a commercial break. But fate had other plans.

LIVE BLOG: 4.4 earthquake strikes Los Angeles

"Earthquake, we’re having an earthquake," Schauble said, his face briefly frozen in shock, before he and Henderson ducked under their desk.

After the trembling ceased, they both emerged, still on-air.

"OK, it appears to have stopped," Schauble said. "We’re going to jump right now to the Geological Survey ... that felt very close.”

It didn't take long for the reaction to go viral, placing Schauble in the great annals of TV anchors sent into a tizzy by an on-air quake — perhaps the most famous being veteran newsman Kent Shocknek. He was hosting "Today in L.A." on KNBC-TV in 1987 when the deadly 5.9-magnitude Whittier Narrows earthquake hit.

L.A. earthquake: Where exactly did it hit?

Under threat of falling studio lighting, Shocknek's reaction raised the bar for being caught off guard.

"I’m going to get under this desk, I apologize for the theatrics," Shocknek said, clearly rattled.

He then ducked under the desk for a couple of seconds before reemerging.

"OK, this is live, this is what’s happening, right now," he told viewers. "And a word for the folks in the control room, if you’re going to swear we can hear it on the air, so we’ll try to keep a sense of decorum.”

It became known as the "Shocknek Maneuver."

But in 1987, Shocknek didn't have to contend with social media. Twitter erupted with Schauble memes, including from KTLA. Even the news anchor got in on the action, tweeting in response: "LOL! Best... Face... Ever!"

Schauble's on-air reaction generated so much attention it was addressed at an earthquake news conference at Caltech later in the day.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist for the U.S. Geological Survey who is advising L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on earthquake safety measures, said she was "very proud" to see the KTLA anchors going under their desk.

"That is absolutely the right thing to do," she said.

And to the people who were poking fun, Jones had a message: "You don’t know at the beginning how big the earthquake is going to be. And you might feel a little silly doing it for the small one. When the big one happens, it means you stay alive, as the lights come crashing down."

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jason.wells@latimes.com

ron.lin@latimes.com

Twitter: @jasonbretwells | Facebook | Google+

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Disasters and AccidentsU.S. Geological Survey
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