January 19, 2019

Earthquake rattles San Gabriel, Pomona synagogues, Israeli consulate evacuated

The Israeli consulate general in Los Angeles was evacuated shortly before noon Tuesday (local time) as a moderately strong earthquake of 5.4 magnitude rattled much of Southern California.

“We were quite shook up since most of the Israelis had never experienced such an earthquake,” said deputy consul general Yaron Gamburg.

“We gave the order to evacuate, walked down 17 flights of stairs, and returned after half an hour,” he said. “Fortunately, the elevators were working by that time and we found no damage to our offices.”

Gamburg happened to be on the phone with a Journal correspondent when the quake struck and connections were immediately disrupted. He later described the sensation of rolling from side to side, common in seismologically fitted high-rise buildings with built-in rollers.

The quake lasted about 20 seconds, with the epicenter about 30 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Shocks were felt as far south as San Diego and as far east as Las Vegas.

The headquarter building of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, two blocks from the Israeli consulate, sustained no damage and was not evacuated, said spokeswoman Jordan Silverman. There were no reports of damage or injuries at other Jewish institutions.

—By Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

An earthquake felt throughout the Southern California area Tuesday morning caused no visible damage to synagogues close to the epicenter in the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys.

The earthquake, which struck at 11:42 a.m., had been given a preliminary magnitude of 5.6 on the Richter scale, but was downgraded by seismologists to 5.4 by mid-afternoon. The quake’s epicenter was located 3 miles southwest of Chino Hills, about 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The shaking was felt as far away as Ventura County, San Diego and the Palm Springs area.

Workers and day campers at Temple Beth Israel in Pomona evacuated the building during the earthquake. No one was injured.

Beth Israel administrator Art Beckerman says that the building sustained “no visible damage,” but said that an inspection by an engineer would be required to assess any structural damage.

Other synagogues close to the epicenter, such as Temple Ami and Chabad Inland Empire, are reporting no injuries or damage. But due to interruptions in phone service, the synagogues were unable to reach some congregants who live in the Chino Hills.

Sue Morris, an administrator with Temple Ami Shalom in West Covina, said Rabbi Rick Brody was in the process of calling congregants.

She described the shaking as stronger and lasting longer than any earthquake she had experienced before. “We were a little scared,” she said. “The doors on the ark opened up, but luckily the scrolls are tied in.

—Molly Binenfeld, Contributing Writer