2 DIE AS STRONG QUAKE SHAKES CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
From News Services
Los Angeles, Calif.
DEC. 21, 2003, 2:45pm (EST) -- A stong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 and centered near historic Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif., struck the Central California coast late this morning, leaving two women dead in the mountain community of Paso Robles and millions of Californians shaken along a 350-mile stretch of coastline from San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles.
The quake was felt as a gently rolling wave in Los Angeles but as a series of sharp shocks in coastal cities including Santa Barbara, San Louis Obispo and Cambria, a community close to the epicenter and the famed mansion of William Randolph Hearst. The famed Big Sur mountain resorts also felt the quake quite sharply, residents interviewed by the region's news services said.
"Oh my God, did we feel it!" the manager of a Big Sur resort, Dan Priano, told the Los Angeles Times. "It was the longest one we've ever felt. I think it was 10 or 15 seconds."
The downton Federal Building in San Francisco was swaying as the quake rolled along for 10 to 15 seconds, sending occupants and other city residents into the streets by the thousands. The quake and subsequent fire that devastated San Francisco on April 18, 1906 is estimated by sceintists at California Institute of Technology to have been 6.9 temblor, far stronger than today's. That quake along the San Andreas Fault left at least 3,000 dead, but the true death toll may never be known. It lasted almost a minute.
"Tens of thousands" of people were left without power after today's quake, CNN reported. A 6.5 quake is strong enough to do substantial damage to homes and buildings, and this one did.
In Paso Robles, a two-story building collapsed and killed two women as they walked by and were struck by the falling roof. The quake destroyed the city's landmark clock tower and damaged other businesses. At least 46 businesses suffered some damage, and some were destroyed.
"A lot of the buildings ... are pretty well demolished," accountant Madelyn Stempler told CNN. Rescue crews were digging through the rubble to where the three died to determine if any others were inside. There was apparently no one in cars that were parked at the nearby curb and were crushed by the building;s roof as it folded over the sidewalk.
The quake struck at 11:15:46am and had a depth of 4.7 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey's Menlo Park observatory reported. It was centered six miles NE of San Simeon and 10 miles north of Cambria.