SAN JOSE, Calif. The San Francisco Bay area's largest earthquake in nearly two decades rattled homes and nerves, but the magnitude-5.6 temblor caused no serious damage or injuries.
Tuesday's tremor, centered about 9 miles northeast of San Jose, was the strongest to hit the Bay Area since October 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake caused 62 deaths and nearly $6 billion in damage.
Though the latest quake was far less of a threat, its was widely felt within an 80-mile radius and reminded Nothern Californians of the eight major faults in the region capable of producing a significant shake.
Scientists have projected that the Hayward Fault, which runs through a 50-mile swath of suburbia east of San Francisco, can produce a quake in the potentially lethal 6.7 to 7.0 range.
But the latest temblor came from the lesser-known Calaveras Fault.
Local and state authorities fielded a numbers of calls about gas leaks and broken water pipes, but little else related to the quake.
The USGS reported about a dozen aftershocks, the biggest with a preliminary magnitude of 2.1.
Historically, severe quakes have occurred on the Hayward every 151 years, give or take 23 years. The last one to hit was in 1868, meaning it is now into the danger zone.
The Association of Bay Area Governments estimates a powerful Hayward quake would wipe out some 155,000 housing units, 37,000 in San Francisco alone.
Aaron McLear, a spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the state "will review and inspect all important infrastructure," including California's fragile levees in the coming days.
The epicenter of Tuesday's quake was near Alum Rock, in the Diablo Range foothills east of San Jose not far from the home of Mayor Chuck Reed. Pictures fell off the walls of Reed's house, but there was no major damage there, he said.
"It was a pretty strong ride here, a lot of shaking but nothing broken," Reed said. "I've talked to a few people and we have no reports of injuries or damage. There was a lot of shaking, but it wasn't the big one."
Amrit Shergill, a night cashier at Alum Rock Shell gasoline station in San Jose, said only some small items toppled off a shelf when the shaking began at 8 p.m. but the intensity sent her outside and crouching on the sidewalk.
"My God, I felt like running because the roof might come down on my head," Shergill said.
Bay Area public transportation officials said Caltrain and Bay Area Rapid Transit trains halted for several minutes after the quake, then resumed at reduced speeds. There were no reports of injuries or damage to trains, officials said.In 2003, a magnitude-6.5 earthquake jolted the Central California coast, pitching an 1892 clock tower building onto the street and killing two people. In 2005, a magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck about 80 miles off the coast of Northern California, briefly prompting a tsunami warning from the Mexican border to British Columbia, but no damage or injuries were reported.
Associated Press Writers Rachel Konrad in San Francisco and Tom Verdin and Aaron Davis in Sacramento contributed to this report.