Strong Early A.M. Quake Wakes SoCal
7.0 Tremor Reportedly Caused No Serious Injuries
LOS ANGELES, Updated
9:55 a.m. October 16, 1999
-- An earthquake with a
preliminary magnitude 7.0 and
centered in the Mojave Desert
more than 100 miles northeast
of Los Angeles awakened
millions of people before dawn
today and derailed an Amtrak
Lucy Jones, of the U.S. Geological Survey, told reporters the quake was
not an aftershock of the 1992 Landers quake, as previously reported.
Caltech has named the shaker Hector Mine, after the old mine and small
town where it was centered.
The quake's epicenter was 32 miles north of Joshua Tree, near the
unpopulated Bullion Mountains and Mesquite Dry Lake. That's about
100 miles east of Los Angeles.
The strong, rolling temblor, which began at 2:46 a.m., lasted as long as 30
seconds in Los Angeles, causing skyscrapers to sway.
The quake was felt in San
Diego, Yuma, Ariz., Bullhead
City, Ariz., and Las Vegas. The
shaking was strong enough to
break a fish tank in a Las Vegas
home, CBS 2 News reported.
The top two floors of the Bonita
Tower at the Disneyland Hotel
in Anaheim were evacuated
after the first event. Nearly
three hours later, sleepy-looking tourists -- some gathering themselves in
blankets -- were milling around outside the hotel, and others were said to
be sleeping on the floor of the lobby.
The earthquake was the strongest in the area since the magnitude-7.3
temblor in Landers on June 28, 1992. Like this quake, the epicenter of
that one was in a sparsely populated area in the desert.
Quakes of a magnitude-7.0 have caused catastrophic damage in some
countries, where populations are densely packed and some construction
techniques are less than state-of-the-art.
There have been 15 aftershocks with a magnitude-4.0 and greater and
two aftershocks with a magnitude-5.0 and greater, Jones told CBS 2
Twenty-two cars of Amtrak's Southwest Chief, en route from Chicago
and due in to Los Angeles at 8:40 a.m., derailed about 10 miles west of
Ludlow, along Interstate 40.
The television station reported that four passengers have been transported
from the train with minor injuries. One woman in her 50s, fell out of her
seat and dislocated her shoulder. A second person also was taken to the
hospital for treatment of a back injury.
Buses were rounded up to get
the 150-155 passengers to their
final destination. They had been
sitting in their cars for seven
Experts say the passengers
were probably the people
closest to the epicenter -- which
occured in a sparsely populated
Jones briefed news crews at Caltech, saying the earthquake caused
side-to- side ground motion of about half the force that gravity pulls
people down. Despite the intensity of the ground movement, most of the
damage reported across a wide swath of the Southwest was minor, and
virtually none of it was in Los Angeles.
The damage in one of the nation's most populated areas was more to the
nerves of Southern Californians who don't need much to remind them of
the fear they experienced with the magnitude-6.7 Northridge temblor on
Jan. 17, 1994.
However, there was a spill of an estimated 2,000 gallons of naptha at an
Ultramar refinery operation at Berth 164 in the Port of Los Angeles.
Bob Collis of the Los Angeles Fire Department said the petroleum-based
product, which is extremely flammable, was covered with foam as a
Many people reported seeing bolts of electricity from swaying power
lines, and as many as 82,000 people were without service around sunup.
"At the height of this event, we had approximately 80,000 customers who
were affected," SCE spokesperson Steve Conroy told a local news
The outages "ranged from 30 second interruptions to total outages,"
said. By 7 a.m., SCE estimated 8,000 to 10,000 customers were without
"I cannot pinpoint the locations," he said. "The outages range
Bernardino, Riverside and Orange and some small pockets in Los
Angeles County," Conroy said.
Some SCE outages were
reported as far away as
Ventura County. "Our crews
are currently conducting
damage assessments. Our goal
is to return service to all
customers sometime today," he
One overpass on the I-40 has
been closed by CHP to study
the damage, which as of now, appears as a large crack. There were no
reports of any serious structural damage to freeway overpasses. Traffic
has not been affected.
County Fire Capt. Steve Valenzuela said the quake was a Level 1
temblor locally, with Level 5 being the strongest. Water breaks were
reported in Santa Ana, at Santa Clara and Tustin avenues, and in the 300
block of North Euclid Avenue. Aside from the train, no reports of serious
injury have been reported, but viwers have told of minor property
damage from places as far away as Big Bear, Thousand Oaks, Long
Beach, Palm Springs and San Diego.
More on the epicenter
Initial reports were that the majority of the force of the quake was
directed to the east -- away from the Los Angeles basin.
The quake occurred almost 10 years to the day after the big Loma Prieta
quake that did serious damage to the Bay area, and 12 years after the
Oct. 17, 1987, Whittier Narrows quake that caused substantial damage
and took the life of one Cal State L.A. student. At first, seismologists
indicated the quake was an aftershock to the June 28, 1992, Landers
earthquake, which registered a magnitude-7.3. But that was not the case:
the fault that triggered today's temblor is east of the Landers fault, Jones
Jones said the epicenter was near the San Andreas Fault, but not on it.
Most callers said ceiling lights swayed. Some said their lawn sprinklers
were triggered. Pools across the area reportedly cracked and sloshed
A woman in the Moreno Valley told reporters it felt like the strongest
quake since the 1971 Sylmar quake, which was a magnitude-7.1.
Most reports say the quake felt long and rumbling. Police and firefighters
continue to check for injuries and damages.
The quake that caused severe damage in Mexico this June was magnitude
6.7; the one that struck Turkey this August was magnitude 7.4; and the
September Taiwan rattler was 7.6. Experts say the reason this SoCal
temblor has reportedly caused much less damage is because its epicenter
was in a rural area.
Did you feel it? Log on to Caltech's Community Internet Intensity
Maps and help them track the earthquake.
Latest aftershock times and maps
The USGS Pasadena Field Office provides real-time seismic and
GPS monitoring of earthquakes in Southern California, earthquake
lists and maps and links to other sources of earthquake
The FEMA Earthquake Fact Sheet can tell you what to do before,
during and after an earthquake.
The California Seismic Safety Commission has information about
the SSC and its efforts to improve California's preparedness for
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