April 4, 2010 in Nation/World

Magnitude 7.2 quake hits Baja California

Associated Press
 

LOS ANGELES — A strong earthquake south of the U.S.-Mexico border Sunday swayed high-rises in downtown Los Angeles and San Diego and was felt across Southern California and Arizona, knocking out power and breaking pipes in some areas but causing no major damage.

The 7.2-magnitude quake struck at 3:40 p.m. in Baja California, Mexico, about 19 miles southeast of Mexicali, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was initially reported as a magnitude-6.9 quake. The updated magnitude was still an estimate, according to USGS seismologist Lucy Jones.

The area was hit by magnitude-3.0 quakes all week.

“It’s been quite a while since we’ve had an earthquake this large,” Jones said. “The last time we had an earthquake this large in either Baja or California was in 1992 with the Landers Earthquake, which was 7.3.”

The USGS reported three strong aftershocks within the hour, including a magnitude-5.1 jolt in the Imperial County desert east of San Diego. Magnitude-4.5 and magnitude-4.3 aftershocks were also reported.

The 7.2-magnitude quake was felt as far north as Santa Barbara, USGS seismologist Susan Potter said.

Strong shaking was reported in the Coachella Valley and Riverside. The earthquake rattled buildings on the west side of Los Angeles and in the San Fernando Valley, interrupting Easter dinners. Chandeliers swayed and wine jiggled in glasses.

In San Diego, there were reports of shattered windows, broken pipes and water main breaks in private buildings, but no reports of injuries, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Maurice Luque said.

Coronado Bridge over San Diego Bay was briefly closed by the California Highway Patrol as a precaution.

In Los Angeles, water sloshed out of residential swimming pools, the city fire department went on “earthquake status,” and some stalled elevators were reported. No major damage was reported in Los Angeles or San Diego.

One woman called firefighters and said she was stuck in an elevator descending from the 34th floor in a building in Century City, but there was no way to immediately know if the breakdown was tied the quake, Los Angeles firefighter Eric Scott said.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokeswoman Maryanne Pierson said there were no power outages anywhere in the city.

“It sounds like it’s felt by at least 20 million people at this point,” Jones said. “Most of Southern California felt this earthquake.”

The quake was felt for about 40 seconds in Tijuana, Mexico, causing buildings to sway and knocking out power in parts of the city. Families celebrating Easter ran out of the homes, with children screaming and crying.

Baja California state Civil Protection Director Alfredo Escobedo said there were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage. But he said the assessment was ongoing.

In Arizona, 3,369 customers in the Yuma area had a “relatively momentary outage” from the quake, Arizona Public Service Company spokesman Don Wool said.

Only about 70 people were still without service in the rural Gadsden and Summerton areas. But Wool said he expected electricity to be restored there in about two hours.

He said the tremor was enough “to trip open some breakers, but we were able to manually close those very quickly.”

Clint Norred, a spokesman for the Yuma, Ariz., Police Department, said the quake was very strong there but he’d heard no reports of injuries or major damage.

“In my house, it knocked a couple of things off the wall,” he said.

His home lost power for about 15 minutes.

Yuma gets tremors from time to time he said, but Sunday’s was “probably one of the better ones that I can remember, and I was born and raised here.”

In the Phoenix area, Jacqueline Land said her king-sized bed in her second-floor apartment felt like a boat gently swaying on the ocean.

“I thought to myself, ‘That can’t be an earthquake. I’m in Arizona,’” the Northern California native said.

Mike Wong, who works at a journalism school in downtown Phoenix, said he was in his second-floor office getting some work done Sunday afternoon when he heard sounds and felt the building start to sway.

“I heard some cracking sounds, like Rice Krispies,” coming from the building, he said. “I didn’t think much of it, but I kept hearing it, and then I started feeling a shake. I thought, ‘You know what? I think that might be an earthquake.”

Wong said the swaying lasted for “just a few seconds,” and he didn’t notice any damage.

A dispatcher with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department said the agency had not received any calls for service after the quake.

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