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Quake Shakes Wide Area

There are no reports of serious injuries or damage from the magnitude-5.6 temblor, centered about six miles from the town of Anza.

June 13, 2005|Ashley Powers and Steve Hymon

A moderate earthquake with an epicenter about 20 miles south of Palm Springs jolted residents from north of the Mojave Desert to south of the Mexican border Sunday morning, but officials said there were no reports of serious injuries or damage.

"We're a two gas station town ... and neither one fell down," said Kalev Kulbin, a firefighter with the Riverside County Fire Department's station in Anza, a rural community about six miles northwest of the quake's epicenter in a remote area of dry, rolling hills.

The magnitude-5.6 earthquake shook a normally quiet section of the San Jacinto fault zone, Southern California's most active, which runs from near San Bernardino to the southeast near the Salton Sea, said Anthony Guarino, a seismic analyst at Caltech.

That placed it within a few miles of a 5.1-magnitude quake that struck on Oct. 30, 2001, and not far from the 6.6-magnitude Superstition Hills quake of 1987, Guarino said.

Within 90 minutes of the 8:41 a.m. earthquake, more than 24,000 people had signed onto a U.S. Geological Survey website to submit a report describing how the quake felt, answering such questions as: Did you notice the swinging/swaying of doors or hanging objects?

A map posted on the website that people in ZIP codes throughout Southern California reported feeling the quake, including Barstow, Baker, Gorman, Palmdale, San Diego and Brawley.

"Sunday morning must be a good time for reporting earthquakes," said Kate Hutton, another Caltech seismologist, who added that the website typically gets about 5,000 reports after similarly sized earthquakes.

Many described a sharp jolt followed by a slow rolling sensation that caused nausea in some, officials said.

Working on six acres where he raises livestock in Anza, Dan Hurtado, 61, sensed something was wrong when the animals began acting odd. His seven dogs whimpered. Seconds later, Hurtado felt the ground tremble and pitch. When he looked to his goat pasture, he saw several dozen goats and a llama running in a panic.

"There were two good jolts, and I could hear the walls cracking," he said. "I jumped backward out of the chicken coop in case it fell on me. I thought it was going to be the end."

Instead, it proved far from the Big One. Back in his house, Hurtado found little damage. All told, a few pictures and the mounted head of a mule deer had fallen off the wall.

At her home not far away, Pamela Brinkmann, 56, and her granddaughters were roused out of bed. "We were shaking and rocking, kind of like a roller coaster."

She said of her double-wide trailer: "I was hoping it wouldn't fall apart -- because it sounded like something was tearing it apart."

The main businesses in the town, the closest to the epicenter, were jostled but not damaged. News crews reported from the Cahuilla Creek Casino where there had been rumors of cracked pavement and toppled blackjack tables, but the quake mostly just rattled employees and gamblers -- some of whom pointed out there seemed little danger.

"The casino is a tent. It's not even a building that could fall," said cashier Pam Henry. "I live here, and one thing fell off my dresser."

Guarino, of Caltech, said even uneventful earthquakes serve an important purpose.

"Something like this, an earthquake in the desert, you use this as a reminder that we live in earthquake country," he said. "Have three days of food and water on hand, and a plan."

Times staff writers Jia-Rui Chong and Jason Felch contributed to this report.

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