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Frayed Nerves : Temblor and Temperature Take a Toll

October 05, 1987|JUDY PASTERNAK | Times Staff Writer

There was plenty to complain about in Los Angeles on Sunday, and plenty of people were complaining.

The city got a double dose of discomfort with a record-shattering October heat wave and a strong aftershock from last week's earthquake. On the Fahrenheit scale, the unpleasantness rating was 108; on the Richter scale, it was between 5.3 and 5.5.

Outdoors, for the second day in a row, people suffered from a slight sting to the eyes, a parched throat, a dryness on the roof of the mouth, a faint glaze of perspiration. For many, those irritations followed a night of abruptly broken sleep caused by the predawn quake felt over a wide area.

Far From Relaxing

Throughout Southern California, the combination added up to a weekend that was far from relaxing.

Jan Armstrong, for example, came all the way from Albuquerque with her husband, her mother and her three children, aged 11 to 15, and spent 7 1/2 hours Saturday at Disneyland avoiding the rides and the hot, strong sun, ducking into one air-conditioned shop, then another.

Back at the motel, she decided to beat the record high temperatures with a refreshing dip in the pool. The water turned out to be heated.

Early Sunday morning, at one minute to 4, she was awakened with a jolt by her first earthquake. Her youngest daughter felt queasy and cried.

"We're leaving in the morning," Armstrong said, as she gamely paid $1.50 for a map to the stars' homes at a Hollywood souvenir shop later in the day. "I'm ready."

In Lincoln Park in East Los Angeles, the swings and slides, bathed in harsh sunlight, stood empty while children complained to their parents that they were just too hot to play.

Elsewhere, nerves frayed. Lifeguards were kept busy with troublemakers and huge crowds that fled to the beach where, as one radio station announced, "It's a more bearable 90 degrees."

Lifeguard dispatcher Tom Overmire said the hundreds of thousands along the shore were "all grouped right at the water's edge."

Between noon and 3 p.m., Overmire said, lifeguards between Marina del Rey and Topanga had received more than 10 emergency calls. "These were altercations and confrontations. We've had very few water-related rescues," he said. "Tempers are very short."

Sunday morning business was unusually brisk at the Thirty-fiver bar in Pasadena. Bartender Danny Perez said about 10 customers showed up at opening time--7 a.m. "Usually at that time, there's nothing," he said. "They seemed a little anxious--some ordered beer in shot glasses."

By late morning, Carmelo Garcia, a car salesman in Pasadena, was taking a quick gulp of his second beer. "I've never been this edgy before," he said.

'Pretty Shaky'

Garcia had spent the night in his 1952 Buick, parked across the street in a Nazarene Church lot. Their house, built in 1909, had suffered damage in Thursday's temblor and was "pretty shaky."

His fiance, Lidia Marroquin Fische, was even shakier, he said.

"Lidia was in the Guatemala quake of 1976, so she really freaked out. It took three of us to hold her down this morning," he said.

In the Fairfax District, waitress Jean Cocchiaro arrived at Canter's Deli at 5 a.m. and found some of her regulars there. These customers usually arrive at 8 or 9 a.m.

"They couldn't go back to sleep after the quake," she said.

The employees from an earlier shift told her one women had screamed during the aftershock and that set off some shouts from others. About 50 customers had been in the restaurant; about 10 or 15 decided to wait outside for a while before returning to their breakfasts.

Recently Reinforced

Paula Edelman, who had traveled from Los Feliz, asked to be seated "somewhere where the roof won't fall in on me." Manager Jacqueline Canter explained that the walls had been recently reinforced and led her and a friend to a booth.

"I thought we were out of the woods and then KABOOM," Edelman said.

In Encino, Mike Scott of Woodland Hills brought his family to the shaded patio of an Encino restaurant to break the tension. The Scotts usually reserve Sundays for staying around the house, but "this time, we felt we had to get out to blow some of the stink off."

'You Can Feel It'

The effect of the quakes and the heat is "not something you can really define," he said. "But you can feel it."

There were plenty of theories about the cause of the temblors.

At MacArthur Park, Guatemala native Victoria Hernandez laughed and said, "It must be the immigration. They think if they shake our houses, we'll go running back to our own countries."

More mystical speculation came at a "New Age conference," the Whole Life Expo, at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport.

The quakes are "symbolic of our universal process . . . the Earth's psychic is saying that we're polluting her," said faith healer Jeri Castronova.

They are a sign that the Earth "could not carry the weight of people's sins," said Dr. S. K. Kamlesh, who traveled to the convention from India.

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