Earthquakes leave properties damaged, residents shaken


When the first jolt hit, Fullerton Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn was on the couch getting his 4- and 8-year-old daughters ready for bed.

As Sebourn rushed his screaming girls toward the door, another violent lurch knocked the mayor and one of his daughters to the floor. Sebourn skinned his knee and his daughter bumped her head on a door jamb.

On Saturday, the mayor was thankful their injuries weren’t worse. “It’s the strongest jolt I’ve ever felt, and I’ve been in the same town for 41 years,” he said.


PHOTOS: 5.1 quake rattles L.A., Orange County

A series of temblors, punctuated by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake Friday night near La Habra, did more than rattle nerves. Residents in some areas of the hardest-hit communities of La Habra, Brea and Fullerton spent Saturday dealing with no water service, spotty power, crumbled brick walls and other damage.

They were the lucky ones.

Authorities estimated more than 100 people were displaced by the quake at least for a night and some may not be able to return home for days.

In Fullerton, 83 people were displaced after firefighters deemed six residences and 20 apartment units too damaged to occupy. City building officials must survey the structures one by one and clear them before residents can return, said Tom Schultz, deputy chief of operations for the Fullerton Fire Department.

All of those displaced in Fullerton chose to stay with family and friends instead of going to an emergency shelter, Shultz said. In La Habra, authorities said 38 people, including seven children, spent the night at a Red Cross shelter.

“We were told many of them were living in a building that was uninhabitable,” Red Cross spokeswoman Meredith Mills said.


In Buena Park, a 60-year-old man was transported to an area hospital with minor injuries after a TV toppled on him, Schultz said.

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For most, the biggest headache was clearing away the aftermath of the quake, which was preceded and followed by a series of smaller nerve-rattling temblors that continued into Saturday. About 2:30 p.m., a shallow magnitude 4.1 earthquake hit the nearby Rowland Heights area but no damage or major injuries were reported.

Friday night’s shaking left scattered damage across the La Habra area, near the quake’s epicenter, hitting houses, apartments and businesses as well as street lights that were left dangling precariously.

“From 20 to 30 businesses suffered broken plate-glass windows, many of them along Whittier Boulevard,” La Habra Police Sgt. David Crivelli said. “There were also some apartments with stucco damage and leaking water.”

By 10:30 p.m. Friday, residents had been evacuated from apartment units in the 2500 block of West Whittier Boulevard, the 400 block of North Idaho Street and the 700 block of West 1st Avenue. An L.A. Fitness center near Imperial Highway and Beach Boulevard had water running off the roof.

In Brea, officials were working to repair a broken water main.

Wayne Sass of Fullerton said a large picture covered with glass flew nine feet off the wall and shattered within inches of his terrified 9-year-old son. There was broken glass in every room and some cracks in the home’s stucco, he said.

“We spent most of the night just trying to clean it up so the kids wouldn’t wake up in the morning and be reminded of it,” he said.

Their home on Canyon Drive had been without water since early Saturday, when a city crew shut off a broken water main. For most of the night, a geyser 75 feet tall spilled into a giant birdbath-like depression formed when the asphalt dipped, he said.

One of Sass’ enterprising neighbors, Andrew Lashbrook, used empty five-gallon containers to dip into the crater and fill them with water. He said he would use it to wash dishes and do laundry.

“You don’t realize how much you need water until it doesn’t come out of the spigot,” Lashbrook said.

Crews worked through the night to repair at least 11 broken 8-inch water mains that left an estimated 100 homes and businesses without water Saturday morning.

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At the corner of Gilbert Street and Rosecrans Avenue in Fullerton, a crew armed with shovels, earth movers and massive stainless water-main clamps labored in a 12-by-20-foot hole in the middle of the road that was 8 feet deep.

“We have five leaks as big as this one in this area alone,” maintenance worker Ed McClain said. “None of us slept a wink last night. We’ll keep going until these problems are fixed.” Fullerton crews said they hoped to have water restored citywide by the day’s end.

The quake also left its mark at dozens of homes in the vicinity of El Rancho Vista and Calle Candela in Fullerton: cracked stucco, collapsed brick walls and toppled mailboxes. The shaking even felled two life-size statues.

Standing next to a barrel filled to the brim with broken porcelain dishes, Denis Lesemme — a neighborhood resident since 1963 — sighed and said, “Last night, after it happened, I wasn’t nervous or scared.

“But look at me now,” he said, extending his arms to display his trembling hands. “I’ve never shaken like this before in my life.”

Times staff writer Jason Wells and photographer Irfan Khan contributed to this report.