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L.A. earthquake rattles region awake but no major damage is reported [Updated]

March 16, 2010 |  5:11 am

2-degree mapAuthorities said the 4.4-magnitude earthquake that hit the Los Angeles area Tuesday morning rattled nerves but caused no major damage or injuries.

Residents who live near the epicenter near Pico Rivera said some items fell off shelves and tables, but authorities said they have no reports of structural damage to homes.

[Updated at 5:30 a.m.: The temblor may have caused damage to the Santa Ana Freeway (Interstate 5) southbound at the Lakewood Boulevard exit. According to Caltrans, two southbound lanes of the freeway have buckled and were closed down. The rest of the freeway remains open, but the closure is expect to jam the morning commute. Officials are trying to determine whether the damage was related to the temblor.]

[Updated at 6 a.m. TV footage showed a roughly 5-foot crack in the roadway. KTTV Channel 11 quoted officials at the scene as saying they were not sure whether the crack was caused by the quake or by a passing truck. Traffic on both sides of the 5 Freeway was jammed.]

Updated at 6:30 a.m.: All lanes of the 5 Freeway were reopened after Caltrans crews patched the crack. Officials were looking into motorist reports of a second smaller crack on the 5 near the 605 Freeway.]

No damage has been reported by Los Angeles County fire stations,  according to county fire official Ed Pickett. The county’s fire stations completed a roll call of all stations about 10 minutes after the earthquake.

“They’re all reporting they felt it, but are not reporting any damage,” Pickett said. “It just seemed to be a significant jolt. But no damage, knock on wood.”

Pickett described the earthquake as a big jolt, “kind of like the building dropped. ... It was really quick.” He described feeling the quake for about “15 seconds at the most.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the temblor struck at 4:04 a.m. about 11 miles east of downtown Los Angeles and about one mile from Pico Rivera. The depth was recorded at about 11 miles.

The quake was considered small, but it was felt over a large swath of Southern California. On the USGS website, more than 1,000 people across Southern California reported feeling the temblor.

Jeff Carr, chief of staff to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said in a Twitter message it appeared there was "no major damage in the City at this time. Good reminder that we all need 2 be prepared."

The quake was centered about four miles from the epicenter of the 1987 Whittier Narrows quake, which caused eight deaths. That quake registered magnitude 5.9.

A 4.4 quake is considered a light earthquake, according to general size conventions on earthquakes. The Whittier Narrows quake in 1987 was considered  moderate. It was centered about six miles underground, and caused substantial damage to buildings, particularly those made out of unreinforced brick.

-- Ruben Vives in Pico Rivera, Rong-Gong Lin II, Geoff Mohan and Shelby Grad

RELATED: Times map of earthquake epicenter