2nd Quake in a Week Jolts Area : 5.3 Temblor Hits Offshore Near San Diego County

Times Staff Writers

The second strong earthquake to rock Southern California in less than a week struck off the coast near Oceanside Sunday morning, shattering windows, cracking walls and awakening residents from Santa Barbara to the Baja peninsula and burying one elderly man for 11 hours under a mountain of books.

The temblor, measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale, was the largest to rattle San Diego County since scientists began monitoring seismic events in 1932. The largest quake previously recorded in San Diego County was a 1984 shaker that measured 4.8.

Centered in the Pacific 28 miles southwest of Oceanside in an area of largely uncharted faults, the quake struck at 6:46 a.m. and was followed during the day by nine aftershocks, some measuring as high as 5 in magnitude.

Estimate of Damage

Authorities reported that 14 people suffered minor injuries. There was also a heart attack fatality that could not be positively linked to the quake. Steve Danon, operations officer at the San Diego County Office of Disaster Preparedness, estimated damage at $500,000 but said the figure could grow.

Residents of the beach towns along San Diego County's northern coast, the area closest to the epicenter, reported feeling a long rolling motion that lasted 10 to 20 seconds and was capped by a sharp jolt.

"The way my bed was shaking it was like something out of 'The Exorcist,' " said Lorraine Jimenez, a cashier at an Oceanside market. "I was pretty panicked."

Sunday's temblor came five days after an even stronger quake jolted the Palm Springs area. Tuesday's quake, measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale, was the largest temblor to hit Southern California in seven years. It caused nearly $6 million in damage, triggered rock slides and felled power lines, prompting widespread power outages.

Lower Losses Predicted

Authorities predicted that property losses from the earthquake off Oceanside would be far lower, although they cautioned that damage reports could escalate today as merchants return to begin the work week.

Many coastal residents reported finding books, pictures and knickknacks knocked off shelves and small appliances jostled. Burglar alarms were set off throughout San Diego, and scores of businesses reported shattered plate-glass windows and other damage.

In Chula Vista, 12 miles south of San Diego, Arless Wilson, 55, died of a heart attack.

"She was up and moving about the house with her husband when the earthquake hit and she went into cardiac arrest," said a spokeswoman at Chula Vista Community Hospital. "Her husband seems convinced it's related to the quake."

Anthony P. Cima, 87, who lives in the Logan Heights District of San Diego, was found Sunday evening buried--but still alive--under a large pile of books that had been stacked to the ceiling of his one-room hotel-apartment.

Firefighters said the quake caused the stacks of books to collapse, and Cima survived by rolling on his stomach so that his head was hanging over the side of his bed, which left him a small "breathing pocket" of air.

Among the books clearly visible in the pile that covered Cima was a copy of "The Walls Came Tumbling Down," fire officials said.

Cima was reported in serious condition at the University of California, San Diego, Medical Center.

In downtown San Diego, an ornamental cement statue of a lion's head toppled off the four-story Lincoln Hotel, crashing into a parked car but causing no injuries. At Lindbergh Field, San Diego's major commercial airport, hairline cracks were reported in walls of the east terminal. The runways, however, suffered no damage and service continued uninterrupted.

Jarred From Beds

Reports of injuries ranged from residents who suffered broken toes while fleeing their homes to people complaining of bruises and cuts from being jolted out of bed. Danon said three people checked into local hospitals complaining of chest pains.

At the San Onofre Nuclear power plant, located on the coast about 40 miles north of the epicenter, the temblor was classified as an "unusual event," the lowest of four levels of emergency response, but there were no reports of damage.

Southern California Edison Spokesman Charles Beale said San Onofre units 2 and 3 continued to operate at normal levels of power. Unit 1 was out of service for refueling and repairs when the quake occurred.

A tiny hole appeared in the Lake Murray Dam in east San Diego but authorities said repairs were under way and there was no cause for alarm. About 200 gallons of petroleum fuel spilled from a leak at a fuel storage facility on Point Loma, but the spill was contained immediately after the earthquake.

Slide Blocks Road

Near the east San Diego County community of Lakeside, a small landslide temporarily blocked a short stretch of Wildcat Canyon Road. Caltrans workers had the route cleared in 30 minutes. And at a health club in nearby Spring Valley, sections of the roof collapsed and windows were broken.

Elsewhere in San Diego County, authorities spent most of their time answering telephone calls from residents startled awake by the second quake within a week.

"We had a lot of calls, but they were mostly just from people wondering if it was really an earthquake," said Oceanside police spokesman John Bart. "It was all pretty ho-hum."

In the southern Orange County community of Laguna Beach, store windows were shattered at the Male Room, a clothing store, and at the Fantastic Toy Store on Pacific Coast Highway, and merchandise was toppled from shelves in several locations.

Hotel Laguna owner Claes Andersen said the 55-year-old white landmark building in the center of town sustained a few cosmetic cracks, but otherwise was "holding up pretty well."

Normal for Palm Springs

In Palm Springs, some residents mistook Sunday morning's new earthquake for another aftershock of their own shaker Tuesday. "We've had so many aftershocks that people are getting used to it," said Palm Springs Police Officer Randy Palmer.

No significant damage was reported in Los Angeles County, but the shock was sufficient to activate hundreds of ultrasonic security alarms and prompted the city Fire Department to call an hourlong "Earthquake Alert," during which fire engines were driven away from the city's 112 fire stations as a precaution. Once outside, the units cruised their districts searching for possible damage, aided by three Fire Department helicopters, but none was found.

A Southern California Edison Co. transformer in Glendora malfunctioned and caught fire four minutes after the quake, cutting off electrical power to about 1,000 customers, but company officials said there was no evidence the blaze was caused by the temblor.

No power failures were reported by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, but three water mains were ruptured. DWP spokeswoman Treva Miller said workmen could not be sure whether these breakages were caused by the quakes or merely because the lines are old.

Sort of Routine

In Ventura County, Sheriff's Lt. Ernie Rogers said his station received "quite a few calls" but no reports of damage, and much the same kind of report came from Santa Barbara and San Bernardino counties.

"Can't get too much of a reaction now," San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Charles Humaas said. "Two big ones in one week . . . it gets to be sort of routine."

But for the breakfast crowd at the Coffee Mill, a diner in Encinitas, the temblor wasn't routine at all. Waitress Debbie Soto said the restaurant's dining room was almost full when the quake struck.

"Then the windows started rattling and everyone ran outside," said Soto, who sought refuge under a door frame. "Everyone stayed pretty calm except one girl who started screaming."

Bud Simms, a 25-year-old Texan, had never felt an earthquake until Sunday.

"That dude woke me up," said Simms, who arrived in Oceanside two weeks ago but slept through the temblor that hit Tuesday. "My wife and sister-in-law were panicking, but I was kind of disappointed. I looked outside but didn't see any buildings falling over or anything."

Reaction From Ocean

Stacey Devers was sitting in her car along the beach before starting work at an Oceanside doughnut shop when the earthquake struck, swaying street light posts.

"All of a sudden the car started shaking really badly," Devers said. "The waves kept getting bigger, then when the shaking stopped the ocean started to recede."

Indeed, concern about a possible seismic wave prompted Carlsbad officials to consider canceling a planned triathlon, a police officer said. But the event was held and went off without a hitch.

At the Mayfair Market in Ocean Beach, Assistant Manager Joe Stanley described Sunday's quake as "better than an E ticket ride at Disneyland" and said that with the exception of the frozen foods section, goods fell from every shelf in the store, which closed for three hours.

"I was ducking under a check stand, so I didn't see much," Stanley said. "But our liquor section really got hit. We lost some real old bottles of Johnny Walker Red."

Stanley estimated the market's losses at more than $1,000.

Even some animals at the San Diego Zoo were startled by the long-lasting temblor. Spokesman Jeff Jouett said inhabitants of the zoo's "Horn and Hoof Mesa" area "were unusually nervous and alert at a time when they're usually lethargic."

"The peacocks all started screaming and the elephants all had their ears up and out like they were listening for something," Jouett said. "The zebras, the antelopes and the gazelles were all trotting back and forth in their enclosures."

Times staff writers Daniel M. Weintraub in San Diego, Dave Palermo, Ronald L. Soble and Ted Thackrey Jr. in Los Angeles and Bob Schwartz in Orange County contributed to this story.

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