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4.7 quake causes minor property damage in L.A. County

Near the center of the quake east of LAX, a light pole was damaged, some windows broke and items fell from shelves.

May 18, 2009|Scott Gold and Jean Merl

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake shook a large stretch of Southern California on Sunday night. There were no immediate reports of serious damage or injuries, though some broken windows, falling dishes and minor property damage occurred.

The quake hit at 8:39 p.m. and was centered near Lennox, a community between Inglewood and Hawthorne and east of Los Angeles International Airport. Lasting about 15 seconds, the temblor could be felt as far away as the High Desert, Indio, Carpinteria and San Diego County.

The earthquake was "a bit deep," said U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough -- originating 8.4 miles below the surface. "That tends to make it less sharp -- less of a jerky, abrupt motion," Hough said. As a result, most of the region felt the quake as a rolling motion, though some closer to the center may have felt a jolt.

"It felt like all the windows were about to pop," said Joseph Poindexter, 36, of Los Angeles, who was inside the Hollywood Park Casino. "It sounded like a big sonic boom. Everybody started running or ducking under the tables."

Automatic sensors initially logged a magnitude 5, but as more data came in, seismologists downgraded it to a magnitude 4.7. A brief aftershock, registering 3.1, followed the quake at 8:45 p.m., also centered in the Lennox area.

At the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Lennox station, deputies said the shaking was brief but intense.

"It was pretty strong but over in about 10 seconds," said Lt. Kent Wegener. "There are no [immediate] reports of damage. At this point, we are checking all the critical facilities and getting our ducks in a row."

Los Angeles city and county fire officials also said they had not received significant damage reports in residential or industrial areas, including the coastal refineries.

In Hawthorne, firefighters were called to a light pole on Chadron Avenue, near Crenshaw Boulevard, which was damaged during the earthquake. One man suffered a heart attack but it was unclear whether that was connected to the quake.

"Luckily, nothing major so far," said Hawthorne Police Lt. Michael Ishii.

At the South Bay Galleria, south of the epicenter, ceiling tiles fell inside a movie theater. There were no injuries reported, though police were called to the scene to help reunite customers with belongings they'd left inside when rushing for the exits, said Redondo Beach Police Sgt. Scott Weibel.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said the quake appeared to be consistent with a rupture on the Newport-Inglewood fault.

That fault has produced several damaging temblors, including the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, which measured about 6.3 in magnitude. But it is not typically thought to be capable of producing "The Big One" -- the Long Beach quake is about as big as experts expect from the fault, Jones said.

"In general, it's an active area," Jones said. Sunday's quake was in keeping with that history -- "a real garden-variety California earthquake."

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scott.gold@latimes.com

jean.merl@latimes.com

Times staff writers Jia-Rui Chong, Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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