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Experts Ease Whittier Residents' Quake Fears

November 23, 1987|RICHARD HOLGUIN | Times Staff Writer

Whittier resident Larry Edelman felt a little better Sunday afternoon, and now he probably will not move his family out of what some people have come to know as "Quake City."

A geology professor had just told Edelman, and more than 600 other area residents attending a community meeting, that even a major earthquake along the San Andreas fault would not shake Whittier any harder than the Oct. 1 temblor.

"We were seriously thinking about moving out," said Edelman, who brought his family from Long Island, N.Y., to Whittier two years ago. "We're hoping that what they said was true."

Experts in geology, building safety, finance and development painted a rosy future for the city, which was the area hardest hit by the Oct. 1 earthquake, which registered 5.9 on the Richter scale, and a major 5.3 aftershock three days later.

Group Leads Effort

The meeting at the Whittier Hilton was sponsored by the Second Century Coalition for a Thriving Whittier, a group of local business and community leaders who came together a few days after the disaster to raise funds and help rebuild the city.

Dallas Rhodes, a geology professor at Whittier College, brought what was probably the afternoon's most welcome news. He said studies indicate that, even if the "big one" hit along the San Andreas fault, the force would be no greater than what Whittier absorbed during the temblors, which caused about $70 million in damage.

Whittier is on the end of a newly identified fault that was the site of last month's quakes and absorbed the brunt of the energy generated by them, Rhodes said. Force from an earthquake along the more distant San Andreas fault would have a chance to dissipate.

"The amount of shaking and damage we endured here was probably as much as we'd get from the big one," Rhodes said.

The Second Century Coalition staged Sunday's meeting to help ease residents' lingering fear of earthquakes and to provide information on grants, loans and other earthquake assistance, coalition Chairman Dave Cannon said.

"The thing that was so apparent was that people were so doggone upset," Cannon said. "They were disproportionately afraid of earthquakes."

The meeting was timely. An aftershock measuring 2.8 on the Richter scale struck at 10:41 p.m. Saturday, prompting more than 20 calls to Whittier police, officials said. The temblor was centered seven miles southeast of Pasadena, the location of hundreds of aftershocks since Oct. 1, according to officials at Caltech in Pasadena.

"It was kind of a good reminder," Cannon said.

City Manager Thomas G. Mauk reminded residents that they have until Dec. 7 to file for federal grants and loans to rebuild their damaged homes and businesses. Mauk said a package of state grants and loans should become available to city residents within the next couple of weeks.

Spur Reconstruction

Redevelopment Project Manager Susan Moeller described a proposal, which is to be considered by the City Council this week, to nearly double the city's redevelopment district around Uptown Village to spur reconstruction.

Alfred Gobar, a real estate development consultant, predicted new and larger businesses, including clothing stores and restaurants, will move into the heavily damaged Uptown Whittier area.

Representatives of banks and savings and loan institutions manned booths after the presentation to answer questions from area residents whose homes and businesses were damaged.

Dr. Albert Arenowitz, director of the Intercommunity Child Guidance Center, was present to offer help in psychological reconstruction. He publicized the free counseling services offered by his center.

Earthquake fears linger and may be stirred by news reports of aftershocks or predictions of the "big one," he said.

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