Print options

August 29, 2012

California Earthquake Swarm Rattle Nerves, Teaches Lesson

by Mike O'Sullivan

LOS ANGELES — Residents of the California town of Brawley are coping with rattled nerves as they assess the damage from hundreds of small and moderate earthquakes that have shaken the region since Sunday. They say it is a reminder to stay prepared because they live in earthquake country.

Workers in Brawley repair quake damage, as scientists at the California Institute of Technology learn more about the network of fault-lines beneath the desert community.

Since Sunday more than 400 quakes - the highest a major shaker at magnitude 5.5 - have rocked the city of 25,000.

Furniture store owner Mary Lourdes Miller lost two front windows.  She went through a major quake here in the 1970s.

“And all of a sudden you have it hit and you are not sure if it is going to be another seven-pointer or it is going to be a three-pointer or a four-pointer.  So you are on touch and go for quite a while until they completely stop,” Miller said.

Stocks tumbled from the shelves at Raj Lunagaria's pharmacy.

There are cracks in the walls and the stock room is a shambles.

Construction worker Jay Robertson says it has been been scary.

“All day long, all night long.  You hear thunder.  You do not know if it is going to hit again or if it is below us, or what is going on.  It is a clear day, so it [is not] thunder from the sky.  It is thunder from the ground,” Robertson said.

The town has declared a state of emergency.  The quakes have died down and city officials are assessing the impact, says interim fire chief Chuck Peraza.

“We have had some major damage to a mobile home park here in the city of Brawley, where 20-plus units shifted off their foundation.  We've had some old businesses dating back to the 1940s, unreinforced masonry that sustained some damage,” Peraza said.

The students are back at school after summer vacation, with a one-day delay, says high school district superintendent Hasmik Danielian.

“One day late, and we made sure that the safety of the kids is not compromised under any circumstances,” Danielian said.

The quakes have taught a lesson, says Katy Miller.

“Do not run outside.  Just calm down.  And it will pass, hopefully,” Miller said.

San Francisco was hit by a devastating quake a century ago, and the San Andreas fault, which caused it, runs through much of the state.

California Institute of Technology seismologist Kate Hutton says people need to be ready.

“Any earthquake is a reminder that we live in earthquake country and you had better prepare.  That involves having your (emergency) kit and your family plan, and having your water heater bolted in, all these safety precautions that people need to take,” Hutton said.

She says, we do not know when, but we know that some day, a big earthquake is coming.