4.4 L.A. earthquake a wake-up call for residents to prepare

The magnitude 4.4 earthquake that struck near Westwood early Monday was a “rude awakening” for Angelenos who remain vulnerable to being caught unprepared by a major temblor, Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

The earthquake that struck in Sherman Oaks at 6:25 a.m. was the most significant shake in Southern California since a 5.5-earthquake hit Chino Hills in 2008. It was followed up by seven smaller temblors, with two registering as magnitude 2.5 or greater, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

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The temblor struck roughly one month after Garcetti announced plans to, for the first time, partner with the U.S. Geological Survey to better protect private buildings as well as telecommunications and water supplies during a major quake.

“Today’s earthquake is a reminder that every L.A. family must be prepared with food, water and other essentials, as well as a plan,” Garcetti said in a statement Monday. “While it appears the greatest impact of this temblor was a rude awakening, we are executing our post-earthquake protocols to survey our neighborhoods and critical infrastructure.”


With no reports of injuries or significant damage Monday, officials seized on the quake to remind residents to be prepared for a major seismic event.

The quake struck the northern edge of the Santa Monica Mountains, an area that has not seen much recent seismological activity.

Jennifer Graham, a 37-year-old teacher from Venice, was at her boyfriend’s home in Sherman Oaks when the earthquake struck.

“I’ve been through a lot of earthquakes, this one felt just more violent,” she said.

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As she walked her boyfriend’s labradoodle, she said Monday’s quake reminded her to double-check the house’s water and food supply in case a bigger, more damaging quake hit.

“It makes me ask questions,” she said. “Being ready is the intelligent thing to do, but you get so busy, you don’t really think about it. This is a good reminder.”

At the home of Debbie Seidel, a 42-year-old mother of two, there was a fallen mirror resting on a chest that managed not to shatter, and her daughter’s shoe rack had come unhinged and was spilling items to the ground.

Their house is located at the estimated epicenter of the quake.

“It was fast and hard,” she said. “You felt that it was close. It was intense, but super short.”

She said her family of four will likely talk about the quake over dinner. Despite being born and raised in California, she said when this quake hit, she wasn’t sure what to do.

The family has a metal bin full of items in case of an earthquake, but Seidel said she wasn’t sure what was in it anymore, or if she could even open the lid.

“You’ve got to stay on top of it,” Seidel said.

Even more so if Monday’s magnitude 4.4 temblor marks the beginning of the end of L.A.'s years-long “earthquake drought.”

Typically, seismologists would expect a 4.4-sized earthquake about once a year in the Los Angeles Basin, but that hasn’t happened for years.

“We don’t know if this is the end of the earthquake drought we’ve had over the last few years, and we won’t know for many months,” said Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson.

Significant earthquakes were far more common in the Los Angeles Basin in the 1980s and 1990s, when the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, the 1991 Sierra Madre earthquake, and the 1994 Northridge earthquake occurred.

Monday’s quake is a reminder of the larger seismic forces that have shaped Southern California, as the Pacific tectonic plate underneath Los Angeles is grinding up north against the North American plate, northeast of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Past earthquakes since ancient times are the reasons why Southern California has mountains; quakes pushed up the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains.

Nancy King, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said Monday that she hoped the most recent jolt could be used as a teachable moment.

“We live in earthquake country and we can expect earthquakes frequently and the big one, one day,” she said. “We don’t know when that one’s coming.”