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Quake Hits Vast Area of Southland : Seismic: Epicenter near Upland. Some damage but only minor injuries reported. Estimated strength of temblor varies from 5.5 to 6.1

March 01, 1990|ERIC MALNIC and LOUIS SAHAGUN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A strong earthquake struck near Upland on Wednesday afternoon, and while it shattered windows and set off at least two fires, the temblor appeared to cause only minor damage throughout much of Southern California.

There were no reports of serious injuries, but a number of people were being treated for cuts and bruises and other minor injuries, including two men hurt in a landslide. Most of the injuries came when groceries, crockery and books tumbled from shelves throughout the east San Gabriel Valley and western San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

The temblor struck at 3:45 p.m. and lasted about 30 seconds. It was centered where two major geologic faults meet in the San Gabriel Mountains about three miles northwest of Upland--roughly 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles--according to Lucille Jones, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Pasadena office.

Initial estimates of the earthquake's strength varied between 5.5 and 6.1 on the seismic intensity scale. By contrast, last October's earthquake in the Bay Area was estimated at 7.1--at least 10 times as strong.

The Upland quake was preceded by a 3.6 foreshock that took place at 12:39 p.m. at the same location. Buildings swayed along a 250-mile front from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

Seismologists described the quake as a "slip-strike earthquake," a reference to its horizontal movement. The strongest of at least 16 aftershocks recorded as of 5 p.m. measured 4, seismologists said.

At least two fires broke out near the epicenter. One involved a house, the other a convenience store.

Roberta Marley, an official at the Creative Extended Daycare Center in Upland, said she could see smoke billowing from a blaze near the school, which is attended by 48 children.

"We felt the building swaying and we watched nearby homes sway," Marley said. "The kids were really good. They knew to get under tables if they were inside and on the ground if they were outside."

Marley's husband, who runs a nearby ice cream shop, said a 900-pound ice cream machine crawled across the floor about five inches during the quake.

"It was awesome," he said.

At the 400-bed Pomona Valley Community Hospital, an apparently quake-related water leak flooded a number of rooms, forcing the relocation of 40 to 60 patients to other areas of the hospital.

Officials in Claremont and La Verne declared local states of emergency.

"We have minor damage throughout the city," said Claremont Cmdr. Gary Armstrong. "Anywhere from windows out to structural damage."

Among the structures reporting some damage were the Claremont Library, the Sycamore School, Our Lady of Assumption Church and Pitzer College, which is part of the Claremont Colleges cluster.

A security officer at the Claremont Colleges said there were two minor injuries reported on campus. One student was cut by a falling stereo speaker, and a woman was cut on the ankle by a toppling file cabinet.

"We've evacuated everyone from the buildings. We're checking the buildings before we let anyone back in," said Mel Bourke, a campus security officer. At least two 18-by-12-foot glass plate windows at Pomona City Hall broke and fell inside the building and out onto the street, according to Mayor Donna Smith. Several other windows were cracked, and the ceiling of the finance department offices collapsed.

Water pipes broke at several apartments in Pomona, and half a dozen traffic lights blinked out. Officers were deployed to direct traffic and set up portable stop signs.

A plate glass window shattered in a unused control tower at Ontario International Airport and ceiling tiles broke loose in the main terminal, according to Don Miller, deputy executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Airports.

GTE California officials said three telephone switching centers in Covina, Upland and Mar Vista were knocked out of service for 15 minutes, affecting thousands of customers in the 818 and 714 area code zones, which stretch across the northern side of the Los Angeles metropolitan area and through San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

The quake set off rockslides and cracked pavement across the Southland, crippling a number of roadways just as the evening rush hour began.

A two-inch crack opened up on an off-ramp between Interstate 5 and California 14 in the Newhall area--the same spot where much of the freeway collapsed during the 1971 Sylmar quake.

"We had a rock slide in the Newhall area so they have shut down Soledad Canyon Road, in both directions, east of Shadow Pines," said Sgt. Mike Brey of the California Highway Patrol.

Officials said there were additional slides in the San Gabriel mountains on Mt. Baldy Road, north of Upland, on the Glendora Mountain Road north of Glendora and on California 39, north of Azusa.

Two men were evacuated by helicopter from Angeles National Forest. One suffered a broken arm in the landslide. The condition of the second evacuee was not known, officials said.

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