State marks 10th anniversary of one-two quake punch

By Andrew Bridges, The Associated Press
Friday June 28, 2002

As the Earth shook, Mara Cantelo ran from her home in time to see her white pickup truck bounce clear of the ground and the branches of a nearby Joshua tree sway more violently than they ever had in the Mojave Desert wind. 

Nearby, a gash 53 miles long opened up on the desert floor, as an earthquake tumbled buildings, snapped pipes and ruptured asphalt roads. 

The June 28, 1992, magnitude-7.3 earthquake was the largest to hit the contiguous United States in 40 years. It was felt across the West and is thought to have triggered other earthquakes as far away as Yellowstone National Park. 

Just three hours after the major earthquake, a violent aftershock hit. That quake, a magnitude-6.5, struck just 30 miles to the west, high in the San Bernardino Mountains. 

“It was unbelievable, I was standing in the living room holding the TV up, trying to find my wife and dog. We spent the entire day in the front yard,” said Jay Tunnell, advertising manager at KBHR-FM in Big Bear Lake. 

The quakes killed one person — a 3-year-old boy caught in the collapse of a masonry chimney — and injured 400. About 4,000 buildings and businesses were damaged and another 100 destroyed. Estimates pegged the toll of the earthquakes at nearly $100 million. 

“We never expected anything like that, really. You prepare for it, you talk about being prepared, but you never expect it to happen to you,” said Cantelo, who as a volunteer with the American Red Cross helped serve 68,000 meals over the next month to victims of the earthquakes. 

Both quakes struck in the morning — the first at 4:57 a.m. near Landers, about 110 miles east-northeast of Los Angeles. It was the largest in the 48 continental states since the magnitude-7.7 Tehachapi quake near Bakersfield on July 21, 1952. 

The aftershock followed at 8:05 a.m., five miles southeast of Big Bear Lake. 

Thomas Henyey, emeritus director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, said the Landers earthquake changed the way seismologists thought faults behaved. 

“Our feeling had been that earthquakes broke individual fault segments,” Henyey said. Instead, the Landers quake ruptured five or more adjacent faults, he said. 

“It was a real surprise to us. What it said was no longer do ruptures stop at these junction points, but they can jump and grow into much larger events,” he said. 

Landers also triggered quakes hundreds of miles away: seismic areas near Mount Lassen, the Napa Valley and Mammoth Lakes rumbled for days and weeks after Landers. 

“It was really the first earthquake that convinced the scientific community that you get triggered earthquakes at great distances,” said Susan Hough, a U.S. Geological Survey seismologist. “There had always been the question whether these things were just a coincidence.” 

Today, a decade after the one-two punch of the Landers and Big Bear earthquakes, the scars are mostly healed. 

The photos that showed the partial collapse of a Yucca Valley bowling alley were removed by its new owner just a few weeks ago. 

Major California earthquakes during past 50 years 


n Kern County, near Bakersfield, July 21, 1952, magnitude-7.5. 

n Borrego Mountain, April 9, 1968, magnitude-6.5. 

n Sylmar, Feb. 9, 1971, magnitude-6.6. 

n Imperial Valley, Oct. 5, 1979, magnitude-6.4. 

n Superstition Hills, near Salton Sea, Nov. 24, 1987, magnitude-6.2 

n Loma Prieta, San Francisco Bay area, Oct, 17, 1989, magnitude-7. 

n Landers, June 28, 1992, magnitude-7.3. 

n Northridge, Jan. 17, 1994, magnitude-6.7. 

n Hector Mine, near Joshua Tree, Oct. 16, 1999, magnitude-7.1. 

Source: U.S. Geological Survey