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5.4 earthquake jolts Southern California, causing mostly minor damage

July 7, 2010 |  7:01 pm
City map

A 5.4 earthquake rattled a large portion of California on Wednesday afternoon, causing scattered damage near the epicenter near Borrego Springs but sparing the region of injuries.

Thousands of people reported feeling the temblor, which  hit at 4:53 p.m. about 28 miles south of Palm Springs. It was followed by several small aftershocks.

Mary Jane Laws, an assistant manager at Center Market grocery store in Borrego Springs, said a lot of products fell off the store's shelves but that there was no major damage.

“I’ve been here 30 years, and it was bigger than any of us have experienced,” Laws said. “It shook up and down really hard. That was the big jolt, then back and forth. It feels like forever, but it was probably only 10 to 15 seconds.”

There weren’t many customers in the store when the quake hit, Laws said, but “the employees, they bolted. The cash registers are right by the door.”

“It was scary,” added Celina Vega of Borrego Springs. “I can hardly talk because I’m still shaking. “

She said the earthquake hit as she was getting ready to go to work at Kendall’s Cafe. “I screamed. Glasses fell at my house. We’re not used to earthquakes here in Borrego Springs. When we felt it, oh my gosh, scary!”

A rock slide was reported near the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Palm Springs Fire Chief Blake Goetz told The Times the slide was minor and that there was no  damage to the tramway itself.

Beyond the immediate epicenter, the quake rattled nerves but little else.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said it has not received reports of serious damage or injuries. Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said he experienced strong jolts at police headquarters but that there was no initial report of serious damage.

“So far everything is OK,” Diaz said. “To me it felt like two separate events. The first felt like a foreshock;  the second one was stronger.”

Attorney Nina Ries, who works in a Century City high-rise, had just left her office and was driving toward West Los Angeles when the temblor struck.

“Wow, that’s a really strong wind,” she recalled thinking to herself. As soon as she realized it was an earthquake, said the lifelong Californian, it was over. “It was just rolling like you’re on a wave surfing,” she said. “I don’t think people are fazed anymore.”

She said her husband checked in with his parents, who live in Borrego Springs, and was reassured that they came through unscathed.

-- Andrew Blankstein, Rong-Gong Lin II, Martha Groves, Phil Willon, Tony Perry and Kimi Yoshino

Image: USGS