5.4 Quake Rocks Central California; Two Injured
A magnitude 5.4 earthquake, centered on the San Andreas fault eight miles southwest of Hollister, shook Central California on Wednesday morning, injuring two people and causing scattered light damage.
The quake, felt as far north as San Francisco, occurred at 7:10 a.m. It was the strongest in the region since an April 18, 1990, Watsonville aftershock of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
The Santa Cruz County Office of Emergency Services said the injuries, neither serious, were in that county, northwest of the epicenter. One was to a painter who suffered a head injury falling off a ladder and the other was to a teenager who fell out of his bunk bed. Neither victim was identified.
The California Highway Patrol reported that U.S. 101 sustained minor cracks in San Benito County but was not closed.
Some plaster was knocked from the walls of the two-century-old Roman Catholic mission in San Juan Bautista.
Rosie Murray, a mission staff member, said most of the damage was to the interior. An archeologist summoned to examine it said the damage appeared to be minor.
Side aisles were cordoned off to visitors. The mission sustained major damage, including the collapse of a wall, in the 1906 earthquake, but was fully restored in 1976.
The quake broke some bottles as well as other household and business items near the epicenter, and electricity and telephone service were briefly interrupted in places.
“There was massive shaking,” said a hotel receptionist, Cathy Juaracha, in San Juan Bautista. “Earthquakes always feel really scary, but the creaking was really scaring me.”
Occupants of high-rise buildings in San Francisco, 90 miles away, felt the quake as a rolling motion.
In a joint statement, the U.S. Geological Survey and the state Office of Emergency Services said Wednesday’s temblor ruptured a section of the San Andreas fault at the southern end of the aftershock zone of the magnitude 7.0 Loma Prieta earthquake of Oct. 17, 1989.
The statement said the new quake probably would be followed by numerous aftershocks, but not by anything larger than 5.4 in the immediate future.
The area south of Wednesday’s jolt is known as the creeping segment of the San Andreas. This means that most of its movements are small and that large quakes are few.
Since 1939, there have been eight jolts in the 5 magnitude range within 15 miles of Wednesday’s epicenter. The Loma Prieta epicenter was farther to the north.
The joint statement added that the Loma Prieta quake “likely released most of the stress on the San Andreas fault, and a repeat of the 1989 quake is considered quite unlikely for decades.”
Eight minutes before Wednesday’s temblor, a magnitude 3.1 quake was felt in the vicinity. There was a 3.0 aftershock at 8:56 a.m.