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Sharp Quake Rattles Coastal City, Nerves

March 10, 1986

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) _ A sharp earthquake shook buildings ″like an explosion″ Monday morning, startling restaurant patrons, jolting offshore oil platforms, sending office workers into the streets and causing gas leaks.

But authorities said no major damage or injuries were reported from the 7:33 a.m. quake or the mild aftershocks that rumbled off the coastal community 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The quake measured 4.4 on the Richter scale, which categorizes a 4-point quake moderate. It was centered in the Santa Barbara Channel 10 miles southwest of Santa Barbara, said Dennis Meredith, a spokesman for the seismology labs at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Oil workers on offshore platforms felt the quake as a bump, but residents and office workers in Santa Barbara gave varying accounts. Some said it lasted 10 seconds while others gave the duration as more than a minute.

″It vibrated a good minute,″ said Anne-Jeanette Rankin, a law office legal administrator in the downtown central district. ″I sit next to a large plate glass window so I left the building and people across the street started going out in the street.

″It was a rolling type of earthquake,″ she said. ″It was a long sharp rolling motion ... The buildings really shook.″

Some of the breakfast crowd at the Breakwater Restaurant ″swallowed their eggs whole″ and headed for the door when the harbor restaurant began to rock, said employee Mary Highfield. There was no damage.

A dozen alarmed residents telephoned police moments after the quake, but there were no reports of damage or injury, said a police receptionist who wouldn’t give her name.

″It felt like an explosion,″ she said. ″Our windows shook but none of them broke.″

Sharon Henckel, a buyer at Raytheon in Goleta, said ″all the windows were just bulging″ at a cluster of commercial buildings as she drove to work.

Santa Barbara City Fire Department spokesman Pete Ramsdell said two residents reported natural gas leaks, caused when the quake jarred the lines loose. He advised residents to turn off the gas and call the gas company.

News director John Palmintieri of radio station KTMS-KHTY in Santa Barbara said he had to hold onto the counter in front of him during a newscast in order to keep moving from side to side.

Newsman Lance Orozco of KEYT-TV said ″it felt like two rolling shock waves, lasting eight to 10 seconds.″

Residents in suburban Isla Vista said a less intense aftershock at 7:50 a.m. rattled buildings. Meredith said there were several minor aftershocks.

Mark Eversole of Los Angeles-based Unocal Corp., which operates several offshore oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel, said the quake was felt by workers.

″They said it felt just like a little bump, that was it,″ Eversole said.

On Aug. 13, 1978, a quake measuring 5.1 on the Richter Scale - also centered in the Santa Barbara Channel - derailed a train in Goleta and caused about $12 million damage.

The 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake, which devastated the area, was centered in the channel and has been estimated at 6.3.

The Richter scale is a gauge of energy released by an earthquake, as measured by the ground motion recorded on a seismograph.

Every increase of one number, say from 4.4 to 5.4, means ground motion is 10 times greater.

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