County Quake Damage Rises to $8 Million

Times Staff Writer

Johanna Strom returned to the Lincoln Center Mobile Home Park in Cypress on Monday for the first time since she was jolted awake by last week’s earthquake. She’s still recovering from a “three-day headache” but feels lucky that damage was not more extensive.

Strom, 66, came back to the home she has lived in since 1981 to begin assessing the damage from the initial quake and Sunday’s strong aftershock. Unlike many who live above the treacherous, unpredictable California soil, Strom has earthquake insurance, and the repairs needed for her badly damaged home will be fully paid.

But in the rest of Orange County, officials Monday expected earthquake damage estimates to exceed $8 million, and they are setting the stage for possible federal and state relief.


The Orange County Fire Department will present a detailed assessment of damage in the county to the Board of Supervisors this morning at 9:30 a.m. The assessment will include discussion of Gov. George Deukmejian’s request Monday that President Reagan declare Orange County a disaster area so that it can qualify for federal disaster relief, said Peter Lawrence, program coordinator of the emergency management division of the county Fire Department.

Lawrence said estimates from around the county are still being compiled as building and fire inspectors continue to find structures damaged in last Thursday’s quake further weakened by Sunday’s predawn aftershock.

The current countywide damage estimate is $8 million, with more than $5 million of that occurring in La Habra, Lawrence said. Building officials have identified nearly 450 homes in the city with some sort of structural damage--cracks in walls, broken and falling chimneys--with each home averaging about $8,000 in repair costs.

In Fullerton, about 65 children who had been unable to attend their Seventh-day Adventist school since Thursday, when cracks formed in the brick archways of the building, resumed classes Monday in another building at the church site. The school building remains closed, and no damage estimate has been set, a church spokeswoman said.

The overall damage estimate in the city has reached $450,000 and is likely to increase as more structural damage is discovered, chief building official Chuck DaLeo said.

DaLeo said major damage to another church was averted when building officials ordered the brick chimney removed after Thursday’s quake. Damage to that church, built in 1900 and home to the Church of Religious Science, would have been considerable had the bricks not been removed before Sunday’s aftershock, DaLeo said.


‘Surprised’ at Damage

Even as damage estimates continue to inch upward, county officials also continued to marvel that so little damage was done, especially in north county cities close to the quake’s epicenter near Whittier.

“That is what we have been most surprised by,” said Barbara Lohman, public relations director of the Santa Ana chapter of the American Red Cross. “That a city like La Habra could be so close to some of the hardest hit cities and only have as much damage as it did. Even a little damage is hard for the people who have to endure it, but I think we have been quite lucky in the county.”

No serious injuries have been reported in the county, and the Red Cross has identified only three families left homeless by Thursday’s quake.

All of the homeless resided in the Lincoln Center Mobile Home park in Cypress, which suffered considerable damage. The Red Cross, which made a damage assessment of the park, said that at least 67 homes sustained minor damage, including bent awnings, and six received major damage. Some were knocked off their metal supports and foundations.

Trapped in Mobile Home

After the quake hit Thursday, Strom of the mobile home park found that she was unable to escape through the front door of the double-wide home as it rocked because the whole front portion of the dwelling had sunk about 18 inches. She was rescued after neighbors forced a rear sliding glass door back onto its track.

Strom, like the other residents who had to leave their mobile homes, is staying with nearby relatives until her home is repaired. Although not in the same straits as others whose homes were destroyed, the quake has left her feeling very vulnerable, she said.


“It feels pretty sad, a very bad feeling to have to leave your home after something like this,” she said. “You try and pack a bag like you were just going to stay overnight, but you know it’s not the same. Still, I feel very lucky in many respects. I didn’t get hurt, I had insurance and someone to stay with, and I have good neighbors who are looking out for me. When it comes down to it, there’s just not much you can do about something like this.”