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Quake jolts southern CA

Late morning 5.4 earthquake frays nerves, provides practice for future ‘big one’

BY PJ HELLER | LOS ANGELES | July 29, 2008

A 5.4 magnitude earthquake shook Southern California on Tuesday morning. The quake was felt hundreds of miles away, including San Diego, Las Vegas and Santa Barbara.

"It was one big jolt and then it kept shaking and shaking and shaking," said Adella Bardon of Loving Savior of the Hills Lutheran Church in Chino Hills. "It seemed like it lasted a long time but I’m sure it was probably only about 10 seconds. But it seems like a lifetime when it's happening."

Buildings throughout the region swayed and rocked during the quake, originally estimated at 5.6, upgraded to 5.8 and later downgraded to 5.4. It struck at 11:42 a.m., and was centered about three miles from Chino Hills in San Bernardino County and 28 miles from the Los Angeles Civic Center.

It was followed by a series of smaller aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from 2.7 to 3.8, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Seismologists at Caltech said there was a 30 percent chance of a "strong and possibly damaging" aftershock of magnitude 5.0 or greater in the next seven days. They said as many as 40 smaller aftershocks — from magnitude 3 to 5 — were expected within the next week.

"There is a small chance — approximately 5 to 10 percent — of an earthquake equal to or larger than this main shock in the next seven days," they said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damages throughout the region. Authorities were checking bridges, overpasses and tall buildings for damages, although the size of the temblor was not expected to cause major structural damage. Some office buildings were evacuated as a precautionary measure. Rides at Disneyland in Anaheim were evacuated but the park did not close. Amtrak also stopped its trains for inspection.

"We were very fortunate, no damage," Bardon said. "Everybody is fine."

Some 100 children were at the church — its infant-toddler center, preschool and kindergarten through eight-grade summer school were all in session — when the quake struck.

"Everyone came through it just fine," she said. "All the training and the drills that we put the children through they all behaved exactly as they were supposed to. They followed their teachers out onto the grassy field areas. We had a few that were upset and crying but everybody did what they were supposed to do and it worked great."

In 1994, the 6.7 Northridge quake struck the San Fernando Valley, killing 72 people, injuring thousands and causing more than $12 billion in damages.

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