A strong earthquake struck near Upland on Wednesday afternoon, and while it shattered windows and set off at least two fires, the temblor appeared to cause only minor damage throughout much of Southern California.
There were no reports of serious injuries, but a number of people were being treated for cuts and bruises and other minor injuries, including two men hurt in a landslide. Most of the injuries came when groceries, crockery and books tumbled from shelves throughout the east San Gabriel Valley and western San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
The temblor struck at 3:45 p.m. and lasted about 30 seconds. It was centered where two major geologic faults meet in the San Gabriel Mountains about three miles northwest of Upland--roughly 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles--according to Lucille Jones, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Pasadena office.
Initial estimates of the earthquake's strength varied between 5.5 and 6.1 on the seismic intensity scale. By contrast, last October's earthquake in the Bay Area was estimated at 7.1--at least 10 times as strong.
The Upland quake was preceded by a 3.6 foreshock that took place at 12:39 p.m. at the same location. Buildings swayed along a 250-mile front from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
Seismologists described the quake as a "slip-strike earthquake," a reference to its horizontal movement. The strongest of at least 16 aftershocks recorded as of 5 p.m. measured 4, seismologists said.
At least two fires broke out near the epicenter. One involved a house, the other a convenience store.
Roberta Marley, an official at the Creative Extended Daycare Center in Upland, said she could see smoke billowing from a blaze near the school, which is attended by 48 children.
"We felt the building swaying and we watched nearby homes sway," Marley said. "The kids were really good. They knew to get under tables if they were inside and on the ground if they were outside."
Marley's husband, who runs a nearby ice cream shop, said a 900-pound ice cream machine crawled across the floor about five inches during the quake.
"It was awesome," he said.
At the 400-bed Pomona Valley Community Hospital, an apparently quake-related water leak flooded a number of rooms, forcing the relocation of 40 to 60 patients to other areas of the hospital.
Officials in Claremont and La Verne declared local states of emergency.
"We have minor damage throughout the city," said Claremont Cmdr. Gary Armstrong. "Anywhere from windows out to structural damage."
Among the structures reporting some damage were the Claremont Library, the Sycamore School, Our Lady of Assumption Church and Pitzer College, which is part of the Claremont Colleges cluster.
A security officer at the Claremont Colleges said there were two minor injuries reported on campus. One student was cut by a falling stereo speaker, and a woman was cut on the ankle by a toppling file cabinet.
"We've evacuated everyone from the buildings. We're checking the buildings before we let anyone back in," said Mel Bourke, a campus security officer. At least two 18-by-12-foot glass plate windows at Pomona City Hall broke and fell inside the building and out onto the street, according to Mayor Donna Smith. Several other windows were cracked, and the ceiling of the finance department offices collapsed.
Water pipes broke at several apartments in Pomona, and half a dozen traffic lights blinked out. Officers were deployed to direct traffic and set up portable stop signs.
A plate glass window shattered in a unused control tower at Ontario International Airport and ceiling tiles broke loose in the main terminal, according to Don Miller, deputy executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Airports.
GTE California officials said three telephone switching centers in Covina, Upland and Mar Vista were knocked out of service for 15 minutes, affecting thousands of customers in the 818 and 714 area code zones, which stretch across the northern side of the Los Angeles metropolitan area and through San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
The quake set off rockslides and cracked pavement across the Southland, crippling a number of roadways just as the evening rush hour began.
A two-inch crack opened up on an off-ramp between Interstate 5 and California 14 in the Newhall area--the same spot where much of the freeway collapsed during the 1971 Sylmar quake.
"We had a rock slide in the Newhall area so they have shut down Soledad Canyon Road, in both directions, east of Shadow Pines," said Sgt. Mike Brey of the California Highway Patrol.
Officials said there were additional slides in the San Gabriel mountains on Mt. Baldy Road, north of Upland, on the Glendora Mountain Road north of Glendora and on California 39, north of Azusa.
Two men were evacuated by helicopter from Angeles National Forest. One suffered a broken arm in the landslide. The condition of the second evacuee was not known, officials said.
Cars, buses and trucks jiggled and bounced as the quake rippled roadways across Southern California. One man reported that a 20,000-pound fire truck driving next to him on a Los Angeles street was bouncing "at least 12 inches off the ground."
At a Los Angeles County Transportation Commission meeting in the downtown Hall of Administration, Supervisor Ed Edelman shouted for everyone to "get down" before taking refuge under his desk. A number of occupants fled the meeting room, but returned moments later, grinning sheepishly, when they realized the threat of damage had passed,
The Los Angeles City Council was finishing a debate on an ethics reform and public campaign financing measure as the quake rumbled through.
"If there's any doubt about how God feels about public financing, this should answer it," Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky quipped after the shaking stopped. Yaroslavsky is a staunch foe of public campaign financing.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Stephen Kay was launching into his testimony in the American Civil Liberties Union's case against the Hawthorne Police Department when the ceiling tiles began to squeak in the courtroom in downtown Los Angeles.
Stunned, the jurors and the defendant stared in fascination at the ceiling, and a few jurors yelled to Superior Court Judge Maurice Hogan, "Where shall we go, where shall we go?"
Before anyone could move, the quake was over.
Dr. William R. Winter and his wife, Phyllis, who live in Juniper Hills, a small community on the north slope of the San Gabriel Mountains, said coyotes in the hills around their house began howling at about 2 p.m, roughly an hour and 45 minutes before the quake.
"They kept it up for "a good hour or so," Phyllis Winter said. "I just wondered why."
HOW TO REACT IN A QUAKE If an earthquake strikes and you are . . . In your home: Do not run outside (most earthquake-related injuries happen outdoors). Get away from windows, mirrors and light fixtures. Watch out for tall bookcases or china cases that might topple. Climb under a table or desk or stand in a doorway if possible. If this isn't possible, crouch against a solid wall. Get into a duck-and-cover position, using sofa cushions or pillows to protect your head. In a car: Pull to the side of the road, if possible, and stop the car. Do not attempt to continue driving. Do not park under trees, light posts or signs. Do not park on or under a bridge. Stay inside your car and get down on the floor. In an office: Get under your desk or in a doorway, if possible. If not, crouch against a solid wall and protect your head with what is available, such as a book, notebook, large handbag, coat or briefcase. Many offices have fake drop-ceiling tiles that are easily shaken loose by quakes, so protecting your head is a must. In a mall or store: Get away from glass store fronts. Do not head for the exits, most of which are glass. Crouch against a solid wall. If you have children, put them against the wall and drape yourself over them in a crouching position. Make as small a target as possible. Do not attempt to use escalators or elevators. In an elevator: Most elevators will automatically stop moving when the shaking starts. When the quake stops, stomp on the floor in an attempt to get someone to hear you. If possible, escape through the trapdoor at the top of the elevator, because there is a danger of fire. In a restaurant: The safest place is under the table, since table-tops are made of sturdy material. Do not attempt to run across the restaurant if you are at a table or booth near the windows--get under the table and protect your head. Many restaurants have objects on the walls that could fly across the room, so getting under your own table is the best bet. In a high-rise building: Get under a desk or stand in a doorway. Stay clear of windows, shelves, cabinets and glass partitions. Most high-rises are built so they will sway with a quake more than you would think, but it is actually a protection to keep them from toppling. Do not run for the exit because the stairways may be broken and/or jammed with people. Do not attempt to use the elevator since the power may have failed. In a parking garage: Do not run. Crouch against a pillar or solid wall, covering your head with your purse, jacket or shopping bags. If in your car, do not attempt to drive. Stay in the car and get down on the floor. In schools: Each school is required by the state to have an earthquake-preparedness plan and to have practiced earthquake drills. Children should get under their desks and cover their heads, and move away from windows if at all possible. The school can provide a copy of its earthquake plans to any parent wishing to see them. In a hospital: Every hospital accredited by the Joint Commission of Hospital Accreditation is required to have an earthquake response plan and practice periodic drills. If you are a patient, you should ask what to do in the event of an earthquake, especially if you are hooked up to an intravenous bottle or other medical equipment. Also ask the hospital personnel what their evacuation plan is. Outdoors or in a rural area: Get to where there are fewest possible hazards from above--away from trees, power poles, light posts, etc. Flying debris is what usually hurts people, so the fewer objects that are around you the better. In the mountains: If possible, get away from trees and rocks and into the brush, which will catch some of the flying debris. Crouch and cover your head with your pack or whatever else is handy. Steer clear of boulders, which can be jarred loose by the quake. Be aware that trails may be wiped out. On the beach: Stay put during the quake--there are very few dangers on the beach. When the shaking stops, get off the beach because a tsunami (a wall of water that can measure up to 40 feet high) may have been triggered. Grab essentials and go to the parking lot. Remember to put on shoes, because there may be broken glass. Source: American Red Cross.