POSTED: 1:56 p.m. HST, Sep 7, 2012
LOS ANGELES >> Some of the little tchotchkes that decorate the staid homes of Beverly Hills were tossed off their coffee-table perches this week, but their owners were only shaken and a little bit stirred by a pair of earthquakes that rattled the city of the rich and famous.
The second quake struck just after midnight Friday, reaching a magnitude of 3.4. It was preceded by Monday's 3.2 shaker.
Neither one did any damage, according to Beverly Hills police. But the second, on a fault line just a mile under the Earth's surface, grabbed everybody's attention. The U.S. Geological Survey said more than 4,000 people checked in on its website to say they felt it. Dispatchers from police and fire agencies said they were inundated with calls.
"It scared the .... out of me," said longtime Beverly Hills resident Ellen Lutwak, quickly requesting that she not be quoted on the colorful noun she used to describe her moment of terror.
The only casualty in her home was a troop of plastic antique Army soldiers that were sent tumbling to the floor.
Lutwak, whose previous home suffered substantial damage in the deadly 6.7-magnitude Northridge quake of 1994, called this one "a wake-up call," reminding people to prepare for the eventual arrival of what Californians like to call The Big One, a quake of 8.0-magnitude or greater.
"And I'm going to put away some of my little tchotchkes," she added with a nervous laugh. "I don't need them all out."
Not far away, comedian Sunda Croonquist said the quake sent her husband, an East Coast transplant who is unaccustomed to the ground shaking, running through the house, shouting, "What the hell's going on? Is everybody all right?"
"I said, 'It's an earthquake, there's nothing you can do. Go back to bed,'" she said.
The most frightening moment: All of her children's stuffed animals seeming to come to life, as in the film "Toy Story," when they came flying out of a closet.
The two quakes are probably related, Caltech seismologist Kate Hutton said Friday.
"Technically the first is a foreshock," she said.
A pair of larger quakes, magnitude-4.0 and 4.1 struck the central California agricultural town of Huron about six hours after Friday's Beverly Hills temblor, but if anybody felt them they didn't say so. A police dispatcher reported receiving no calls.
But then Huron, a town of fewer than 7,000, is in the middle of nowhere, 195 miles from San Francisco and 193 miles from Los Angeles.
Hutton said none of the quakes were related to a 7.6-magnitude temblor that struck Costa Rica this week.
But she agreed they should provide a wake-up call.
"Anytime we have small quakes like this, it is a reminder we live in quake country and should be prepared," the seismologist said.