6.0 Earthquake Rocks Southland; 1 Dead, 107 Hurt : Temblor: Epicenter is near Sierra Madre. Hundreds of homes are damaged, and historic buildings in Pasadena are cracked. Some mountain roads are closed.


A strong earthquake centered along the northern edge of the San Gabriel Valley jarred Southern California early Friday, killing at least one person, cracking historic brick buildings in Pasadena, damaging hundreds of houses and triggering rockslides and mudslides in the foothills of Angeles National Forest.

At least 107 people suffered injuries--mostly minor--in the 6.0 quake, which struck at 7:43 a.m. Seismologists said the epicenter was about 7.5 miles northeast of Sierra Madre and 18 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Damage to homes in the San Gabriel Valley cities of Sierra Madre, Monrovia and Arcadia was expected to force more than a score of people to emergency shelters, and at least three roadways winding through the foothills toward Mt. Wilson were closed by landslides.


The quake was felt from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border and as far east as Palm Springs. It was followed by a dozen or more aftershocks.

A San Dimas woman watching horses at the Santa Anita Park racetrack in Arcadia was killed when a steel beam fell on top of her. In addition, a Glendale woman suffered a fatal heart attack that doctors said was brought on by the anxiety of the quake.

In Orange County, the temblor rattled high-rises, jangled nerves and sent some people running for cover, but caused no damage or injuries. It was responsible for a few fender-benders, some jammed phone lines from too many simultaneous calls, and a hectic morning for police dispatchers answering the questions of panicked and curious people.

Electricity and telephone service were temporarily cut in some areas of Los Angeles, while many businesses were closed along the busy promenades of Old Pasadena.

The power of the quake broke water pipes in cities throughout the San Gabriel Valley, toppled part of a wall of the venerable Pasadena Playhouse, and jolted houses off their foundations in Sierra Madre.

In Arcadia, guests were evacuated from 62 rooms of a Motel 6, so badly damaged one official called it a “basket case.” Showers were yanked from the wall, commodes splintered and windows exploded.


Structural damage was scattered throughout the region; but in many places, the destruction was limited to shattered windows and split plaster.

“On a worldwide scale, this is a real puny earthquake,” said Lucile Jones, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

That assessment came long after the initial moments of panic gripped residents who all too well remembered the more devastating Whittier quake of October, 1987, which occurred at almost the same hour.

Residents of inland Orange County reported feeling a sharp, frightening jolt.

“It was definitely like an E-ticket at Disneyland. I went, ‘Whoa!’ ” said Lt. Bob Jones at the Placentia Police Department.

Along the coast, where soils are less firm, the quake’s long, rolling motion left some people feeling a bit seasick.

“It was like the building was on giant rollers,” said Pat Jones, a secretary at the Huntington Beach Civic Center. “It wasn’t a sharp shake. Just rolling, and it seemed to be rolling a long time.”


Liz Thor of Arcadia was readying her children for summer school when the quake hit. She rushed them into a doorway and waited for the moment of panic to pass.

“There was one big bang,” she said, “and then it was quiet, and all we could hear was the breaking of glass all around us.”

Like many residents of the cities that spread beneath the towering San Gabriel Mountains, Thor spent the rest of the day camped out in her front yard.

Seismologist Egill Hauksson at Caltech said preliminary data shows that the quake occurred on the relatively inactive Sierra Madre fault, and he forecast aftershocks for at least the next week--some possibly as big as 5.0.

“Be on your guard,” he cautioned residents. “Expect lots of shaking.”

Of the 107 injuries reported at hospitals in Arcadia, Pasadena, Glendale and Sierra Madre, most were minor: sprains, cuts and bruises.

But killed was Julie Nickoley, 34, of San Dimas. She and her fiance were watching horses work out as the quake struck. She was struck by a steel beam that fell from the grandstands.


“It appears that the two folks in the grandstands were the only ones there and the beam that fell was the only one that fell in this whole huge grandstand,” said Sgt. Bob McPherson of the Arcadia Police Department. “It just happened to hit them.”

Nickoley’s companion was among a handful of people who suffered serious injuries in the quake. A basketball backboard, shaken loose in the tremor, hit a 10-year-old boy in the head, driving a nail into his skull, doctors at St. Luke’s Hospital in Pasadena said. A woman in Arcadia broke her hip in a fall; a worker in Glendale was treated for injuries when he was pinned in his cubicle by falling office equipment, and a 30-year-old Arcadia man burned his arm when the quake shoved him against a vat of hot chemicals.

Property damage was moderate but widespread across the northern San Gabriel Valley, with Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Monrovia and Arcadia appearing to experience the worst of it. In Monrovia, police reported 360 buildings damaged and 16 homes rendered uninhabitable.

Damage to Pasadena alone was put at a minimum of $9 million. Police reported 190 buildings were damaged throughout the city; among those, 18 were declared uninhabitable and evacuated.

“We have a lot of property damage,” said Pasadena Police Lt. Frank Wells, noting the collapse of walls and shattering of plate-glass windows.

Among the hardest hit was Old Pasadena, the historic central business district that has undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation to its 1920s-vintage brick buildings in recent years.


Cracks webbed along the second floor of the Old Pasadena Chamber of Commerce and several dozen storefronts were shattered up and down Colorado Boulevard. Unable to enter their places of work, many people milled about sidewalks littered with brick and glass.

The east wall of Pasadena’s Spanish-style City Hall was cracked and, inside, the marble barriers between bathroom stalls were dislodged. Officials said the top of City Hall’s dome was tilting at a 15-degree angle. The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was evacuated, employees dispatched to a makeshift emergency operations center at the old Fire Department headquarters.

At the 1924-vintage Pasadena Playhouse, bricks toppled from a 30-foot section of wall and onto the roof of a next-door florist shop. While the flowers did not fare too well, the playhouse was reported to have survived with minor damage. No structural damage was found, said architect Richard McCann, who has been overseeing the theater’s restoration.

Workers spent much of the day cleaning up fallen bits of plaster and trying to refocus dozens of stage lights jarred by the temblor in time for a Friday night performance of the Cole Porter revival “You Never Know.”

Elsewhere, many shopping malls and office buildings were closed while maintenance crews searched for possible damage. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena closed its doors and sent most of its 5,800 employees home.

Stained-glass windows were smashed at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, where half-ton chunks of concrete fell from the building’s 110-foot towers and crashed through the sanctuary roof.


Pasadena officials maintained that their city resisted greater damage because of a retrofitting plan under which older brick buildings are being reinforced with steel beams to withstand earthquakes.

However, state officials said Pasadena is the largest city in the region hit by the quake that has failed to implement a mandatory retrofitting program. The city requires masonry buildings to be reinforced only if they are converted from one use to another, such as from an office to a restaurant. The state wants all brick buildings to be reinforced.

Of Pasadena’s 700 masonry structures, only half have been shored up to withstand quakes, said Don Nollar, city director of planning, building and neighborhood services. A new law will soon be proposed that would give building owners several years to upgrade their buildings, Nollar said. Friday’s earthquake may speed the law to the council sooner, he added.

As for the 300 unreinforced buildings in Pasadena, Nollar said only a handful suffered partial collapses in the tremor. “It would be a mistake to say we should start tearing buildings down, because they’re good old buildings, part of the history of Pasadena and can be upgraded and used,” he said.

In Sierra Madre, at least four apartment buildings and nine private houses were declared uninhabitable and their occupants sent to emergency shelters or to stay with friends or relatives, the Red Cross said. Elsewhere in the usually quiet enclave, the quake broke water mains and caused some gas leaks. At least 42 homes and buildings were badly damaged and 18 people were reported injured.

The city’s two major thoroughfares, Baldwin Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard, were closed to traffic to cut down on sightseers.


At the private Alverno High School, bookshelves bolted to the walls--as an earthquake precaution--came tumbling down, the shelves ripping away from the walls. At the chemistry lab, chemicals fell off shelves, prompting school officials to call in county hazardous materials units, Principal Elizabeth Broome said.

The day’s summer session classes had not begun and the 250 students were sent home when they arrived.

The bell towers at two churches were damaged; both the historic Church of the Ascension and the Sierra Madre Congregational Church were closed to the public.

Developer Ron Bigelow stared at the cracks that raced crookedly along a 1920s California bungalow-style house in Sierra Madre. The damage, he said, was total.

“It just jumped off the foundation,” he said grimly. “I refurbished this whole house just two months ago and now it’s demolished.”

About a dozen residents camped out on the front lawn of an apartment building on West Sierra Madre Boulevard--children, pets and belongings in tow. The Fire Department ordered the 20-unit building evacuated to assess damage.


“Our house is a disaster. I’ve never felt a jolt like this,” said apartment manager Tim Baker, who was busy shepherding tenants out of the structurally damaged building. “It’s like someone punched up through the Earth and said, ‘Smack!’ ”

In Arcadia, 100 elderly residents were removed as a precaution from the three-story Regency Retirement Living.

The Motel 6 across the street from the Santa Anita racetrack appeared as though it had been rammed by a couple of big trucks. Huge cracks exposed the wiring and guts of the building.

“It almost looks like somebody picked it up and dropped it, smashing the bottom floor,” said Gary Bitterolf, a security guard.

The Arcadia Fire Department, in removing all the guests, had to pry open doors of some rooms. One woman, her door jammed, threw a chair through her room’s window to escape. She left a napkin pinned to a curtain flapping in the breeze: “Peter--The room was destroyed. I had to get out. I moved over to the Santa Anita Inn.”

At the time of the quake, manager Jean Carter said, the guests did not panic. One even called her to say: “Forget about the wake-up call.”


In Monrovia, the former home of Upton Sinclair, the muckraking author of “The Jungle,” was knocked off its foundation and twisted into sections by the earthquake.

Several residents reported landslides blocking their driveways.

“I was in the kitchen and everything just flew out and all the closet doors flew open,” said Jim Kee as he and his wife inspected a split on their concrete driveway. The split disappeared under the house foundation and reappeared to traverse the dirt ground on the other side.

“It’s like we were built on the fault itself,” he said.

Christine Tillet was standing outside the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel, which suffered minor damage. She said that she moved to California two weeks ago from New York. “I thought I was dreaming. I woke up and my little cousin had jumped out of the bathtub and was on top of me. I thought a truck was passing by shaking. I’ve decided to move back to New York.”

Rockslides and landslides blocked roads and hiking trails in the Angeles National Forest and the foothills around Mt. Wilson, officials of the U.S. Forestry Service reported.

Cliffs that overlooked several of the forest roads seemed to crumble under the force of the tremor. Angeles Crest Highway was reduced to one lane in some sections but fully opened by nightfall. However, the San Gabriel Canyon Road, Santa Anita Canyon Road and Chantry Flats Road were closed.

Bulldozers worked to clear Henneger Flats Road and other passages, but the Santa Anita Canyon Road leading up to Chantry Flat Campground looked as though it would remain closed through the weekend.


There were no reports of injuries to stranded hikers, said Russell Anderson, a 26-year veteran with the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team. Hikers who streamed down the foothills after the quake said they could hear the roar of the rockslides and see dust rising around them as the Earth shook.

“It was spooky,” said an 8-year-old girl who, with her father, gingerly climbed through the slide area to safety on the Santa Anita Canyon Road.

Assessing the Damage

The Sierra Madre temblor caused at least one fatality. There were reports of damage from across the San Gabriel Valley. Among them:

1. A woman was killed at Santa Anita race track when struck by a falling steel beam in a grandstand.

2. Bricks, shaken loose from a 40-foot section of an outer wall at the Pasadena Playhouse, fell on adjoining buildings, including the Jacob Maarse florist shop.

3. Pasadena City Hall was evacuated because of cracks on the eastern wall, buttressing the rotunda.


4. Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena sustained ceiling and wall cracks and about 100,000 books were knocked to the floor.

5. Elsewhere in Pasadena, more than 190 buildings were damaged, with 18 declared uninhabitable.

6. In Arcadia, about 40 homes and buildings werre damaged. Some homes werre evacuated.

7. In Sierra Madre, more than 40 homes and buildings were damaged, including the bell towers at two historic churches.

8. Numerous rockslides occured in the Angeles National Forest, closing several trails and roads.

9. In Monrovia, 360 buildings were damaged and 16 houses were left uninhabitable.