SAN DIEGO - What might be the largest earthquake ever felt in San Diego struck northern Baja California today, spawning numerous aftershocks, jolting Southern Californians, causing minor damage around San Diego and at least one fatality south of the border.
The 7.2 earthquake struck at 3:40 p.m. 37 miles south-southeast of Mexicali, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The heads of San Diego relief agencies said it appeared damage in the heavily populated Baja California capital was not as bad as might be expected, but word had not come in from more vulnerable and isolated locations closer to the epicenter.
''What I'm hearing is that some houses have been knocked down,'' said Gary Becks of the Carlsbad-based Rescue Task Force, who was monitoring news reports.
Becks said his agency identified members of a potential relief team, but they have not been activated.
KNX radio in Los Angeles has reported that one man in northern Baja near the epicenter of the quake was killed when his house collapsed. So far, this is the only confirmed death.
Barry LaForgia of International Relief Teams in San Diego was also keeping an eye on the situation.
Pat Abbott, a professor emeritus of geology at San Diego State University, told 10News there could be ''significant fatalities and damage'' in Mexico.
The Easter Sunday shaker caught people in elevators and swaying high rises.
''It was really freaky -- the biggest I ever felt,'' Tyler Luna told television station KUSI. Luna said the earthquake sloshed water out of his pool, a story numerous people shared.
The quake, if the magnitude is confirmed, would be larger than a 7.1 temblor recorded in the Imperial Valley in 1940, and a 6.5 near Borrego Springs in 1968.
The quake appeared to last anywhere from 15 seconds to nearly a minute, depending on the person, but most accounts indicated it was much longer than average.
Abbott told News8 that length is an indicator of a temblor's strength.
''The longer time it's moving it's putting energy out all that time,'' Abbott said. ''It was a very unique experience.'' Nearly four hours after the big earthquake, the USGS reported 49 aftershocks or related quakes 3.0 or greater. The largest was a magnitude 5.4.
In San Diego, the Sheraton Harbor Island towers were evacuated due to structural worries, but an inspection by building engineers determined there were no major problems, said Maurice Luque of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
However, floors 7-12 remained closed because of jammed doors, Luque said.
Lindbergh Field's Terminal 2 was evacuated for a short time but flights were not delayed.
There was also damage reported at the Nordstrom's at Fashion Valley, which had a water leak, another waterline break at the Veteran's Building on San Diego Avenue, a cracked wall at an old apartment building at 4133 Kansas St., and a cracked wall at the county Animal Shelter on Gaines St., Luque said.
Broadcast reports also showed broken windows at the San Diego Sports Arena.
There were two earthquake-related injuries reported.
One person was hurt in Julian when struck in the head by something that flew off a store shelf, a Heartland fire dispatcher said.
The other injury was to a 15-year-old boy who fell while running down stairs to escape his home in the 2100 block of Bluewater Lane in Chula Vista, a San Diego Fire-Rescue Department dispatcher said.
He said paramedics treated several people who were hyperventilating in downtown hotels.
Firefighters also responded to numerous ringing alarms and elevator rescues, the dispatcher said.
A California Highway Patrol dispatcher said officers gave a once-over to area freeways, bridges and overpasses, but found no damage.
The situation was different in the Imperial Valley, where CHP officers reported cracks and boulders on Interstate 8 and damage to overpasses.
The San Diego Trolley system had only a brief delay, and drivers traveled slower than usual to inspect rails as they went, said Mike Malloy of the Metropolitan Transit System.
Southern California Edison said employees were inspecting the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, but the earthquake was not strong enough to cause a shutdown. The Unit3 reactor was only operating at half-power at the time.
San Diego Gas & Electric reported that 2,400 customers in Dana Point in Orange County lost power because of the earthquake, said the utility's Jennifer Ramp. In San Diego County, about 600 customers lost power in Borrego Springs and there were smaller outages in Fallbrook and National City, she said.
Crews were brought in to check substations and respond to calls of natural gas leaks, according to Ramp.
It was unknown how long it might take to receive clear reports of damage or injuries in Mexico. The Mexican consulate in San Diego was not answering telephone calls.
SAN DIEGO - The 7.2 earthquake felt across Southern California today caused several power outages, but it appears the nuclear power plant in San Clemente came through the incident without significant damage. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake hit at 3:40 p.m. According to Jennifer Ramp of San Diego Gas & Electric, nearly 2,400 customers lost power in Dana Point, just inside the Orange County line. SDG&E serves Orange County as far north as Mission Viejo. In San Diego County, more than 600 customers lost power in Borrego Springs when the earthquake struck, Ramp said. Smaller outages were reported near Fallbrook and in National City. The utility has called in repairmen in case customers smell odors of gas, though no gas line breaks have been reported, she said. Ramp said crews are also checking for damage to SDG&E substations, but there hasn't been any The shaker did not result in a shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, but workers began inspecting the facility, according to a statement issued by Southern California Edison. The reactor known as ''Unit 3'' has been operating at half-power for several weeks. The nuclear plant is built to withstand a 7.0 earthquake five miles away, according to SDG&E. Initial reports of several water main breaks around San Diego were unfounded, Arian Collins of the Public Utilities Department. Leaking water at Mission Bay High School started before the temblor and was mainly on school property, Collins said.
SAN DIEGO - A 7.2 earthquake epicentered near Mexicali struck about 3:40 p.m. today rattling all of Southern California, and setting high rise buildings in Los Angeles and San Diego rocking back and forth. Preliminary USGS information indicated the epicenter was 19 miles southeast of Mexicali, an area that has been rocking with magnitude 3.0 quakes all week. There could be ''significant fatalities and damage'' near the epicenter, San Diego State geologist Pat Abbott told 10News. While no major damage has been reported on the U.S. side of the border, this could go down as the strongest earthquake to strike so close to San Diego County, topping a 7.1 that struck in Imperial County in 1940. A 6.5 shaker hit near Borrego Springs in 1968. No major damage was immediately reported in the city of San Diego, Sgt. Ramona Hastings of the San Diego Police Department said. However, San Diego firefighters found damage to a wall at an old building at 4133 Kansas St., a fire dispatcher said. The building was taped off, and a building engineer was called. The dispatcher said firefighters have been responding to ringing alarms and elevator rescues, and several downtown hotel guests hyperventilated. A 15-year-old boy in Chula Vista hurt his head when he fell down stairs while trying to escape his house in the 2100 block of Bluewater Lane, the dispatcher said. There were no initial damage reports in the county area either, according to Lt. Scott Ybarrondo of the Sheriff's Department and Capt. Nick Schuler of Cal Fire. KNX radio reported that some household items fell from shelves at a home on Coronado Island. The quake struck during a children's play at the Lemon Grove Lutheran Church, sending parishioners scurrying for the door, according to an attendee. Excited San Diegans swarmed Facebook to share their experiences about the quake. Reports of strong shaking that lasted nearly a minute came from areas as diverse as downtown San Diego, Scripps Ranch and Pauma Valley. Some calls via cell phones did not connect, though the reason was unclear. A swarm of small temblors struck the epicenter area late Saturday and early today. Phone calls to El Centro, about 40 miles northwest of the epicenter, were met with busy circuits. A police dispatcher in Yuma, Ariz. said the quake was very strong there, but no damage was reported. The USGS has reported three smaller quakes since, but it was no immediately known if they were aftershocks. They were a 3.4 near Julian at 3:55 p.m., a 4.5 at 4:09 p.m. near Jacumba Hot Springs, and a 5.1 near Imperial at 4:15 p.m. While San Diego came out of the quake relatively unscathed, the extent of damage was not immediately known in Mexicali, the capital of Baja California with a population estimated at 900,000 in the metropolitan area.