Quake rattles central California

Temblor, aftershocks felt along 400-mile stretch, centered on San Andreas

September 29, 2004|By Michael Muskal and Daryl Kelley | Michael Muskal and Daryl Kelley,LOS ANGELES TIMES

A strong earthquake shook California from Los Angeles to San Francisco yesterday, cracking pipes, breaking bottles of wine and knocking pictures from walls.

Although a U.S. Geological Survey spokeswoman placed the magnitude of the quake at 6.0 - significant enough to be felt over hundreds of miles - there were no immediate reports of injuries or significant damage.

The quake struck at 10:15 a.m. Pacific time in a rural area about seven miles southeast of Parkfield, Calif., USGS spokeswoman Stephanie Hanna said.

It was felt as far away as Ventura to the south and San Francisco to the north, each about 200 miles away.

"This is earthquake country. It's a larger earthquake than what usually occurs, but it's not unprecedented," Hanna said.

The site of the quake on the San Andreas fault was about 21 miles north of Paso Robles, Hanna said. An earthquake there in December killed two women.

Norma Moye, executive director of the Main Street Association of Paso Robles, lives near downtown in a Victorian house that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

"It was pretty scary, but no damage so far," she said, adding that she still is repairing cracks from the previous quake.

"The other one was like somebody grabbed you by the shoulder and shook you to death. This one was smoother, things rolled and you got a little seasick," Moye said.

"It shook and we ran out of our building here again," said Russ Wilson, owner of Special Service Contractors in Paso Robles. "Everybody was a little shook and we're waiting for the next bit of rumbling. Everybody's on their toes."

Aftershocks as strong as 5.0 were reported yesterday.

In December, a magnitude-6.5 quake hit the wine and ranching area, causing an estimated $222 million in damage throughout San Luis Obispo County. Several dozen people were injured, and two people were killed.

Yesterday's quake, which occurred at a depth of about five miles, was a "strike-slip quake," which means it caused the ground to move horizontally, Kate Hutton, a seismologist at the Caltech in Pasadena, told the Associated Press.

"The good thing is that Parkfield is one of the most densely instrumented parts of the world seismically because they have earthquakes on a fairly regular basis ... so you can see an earthquake happening," Hutton said. "There is a possibility of learning a lot."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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