Magnitude 5.1 earthquake strikes Ojai area, rattling nerves as Hilary pounds Southland

A color-coded map shows the shaking intensity of an earthquake in Southern California.
A magnitude 5.1 earthquake was reported Sunday at 2:41 p.m. near Ojai.
(U.S. Geological Survey)
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A magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck near Ojai on Sunday, rattling the larger Southern California region as residents were dealing with intense rains from Tropical Storm Hilary.

The temblor was felt across Southern California and hit at 2:41 p.m.

Scott Thomsen, director of communications with the Ventura County Fire Department, said the department immediately implemented its earthquake plan that involves getting the trucks out of the firehouses.

“So far,” he said, “we have no reports of damage, but we are checking.”

Thomsen noted the quake came just as officials were bracing for Hilary: “We are in the middle of the first tropical storm since 1939, and we just had an earthquake.”


Earthquake scientists were quick to make clear that Sunday’s temblor had nothing to do with the arrival of Hilary.

Ojai Mayor Betsy Stix told The Times on Sunday afternoon she had spoken with emergency officials and that, although a power line was reported down and a cellphone tower was damaged, there was little damage otherwise.

Stix said she was in her home office when the shaking started. Frames on the walls began to rattle, the floor started shaking, and “the cats scattered and ran.” She said that, with the tropical storm and the quake, this was a day for the history books.

Shopkeepers in Ojai reported minor damage.

At the Ojai Beverage Co. on Ojai Avenue, manager Nick Howard said a $900
bottle of tequila and a few wine bottles had toppled, but the shop had otherwise lost very little in terms of product.

Patty McFall at OVA Arts, a well-known art gallery regarded for featuring work by local artists, said, “We had some damage. We had some pieces fall. Three or four pieces broke.”

McFall, a sculptor and jeweler, said that some pieces had survived a tumble in the Arcada Plaza, in the heart of Ojai.


Franz Lidz, a journalist living in Ojai, said the quake came with a calamitous sound of things falling and glass shattering.

“It was short, loud and violent. The whole house shook as if a Mack truck had crashed into it,” he wrote in a text to The Times.

“Bernice, one of the family dogs, felt it first,” he added. “She knew instantly that something was terribly wrong. My wife Maggie and I were slower on the uptake, though we realized pretty quickly — 15 seconds? — that we were in the middle of an earthquake.

“Luckily, the people are fine, our neighbors seem to be fine, the new car in our garage is fine, and Bernice, one of our seven-year-old mini-schnauzers, is nearly fine. A half-hour later she’s still shaking, panting and cowering on Maggie’s lap. Naturally, Leavin’, her chill buddy, has already fallen asleep.”

Soon after the quake, Ventura County fire officials asked property owners near the epicenter to survey their structures for damage.

The area of greatest shaking was in Ojai. The shaking intensity there was considered moderate based on the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale, according to calculations by the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s enough to break windows, overturn unstable objects and stop pendulum clocks.


Ventura, Oxnard and Camarillo probably felt light shaking as defined by the scale. That’s strong enough to rattle dishes and windows and can feel like a truck hitting a building.

The quake was centered four miles southeast of Ojai and 10 miles northeast of Ventura in a remote area of Sulphur Mountain. That is 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Ventura County officials said the earthquake occurred along the Sisar fault system.

Seismologist Lucy Jones said on social media that Sunday’s Ventura County earthquake was preceded by a small foreshock sequence, the largest of which was magnitude 2.5, that began Saturday morning.

The quake has been followed by several aftershocks.

Southern California residents described receiving an earthquake early warning on their cellphone’s MyShake app before feeling the shaking. One person described getting seven seconds of warning.