March 16, 2010— -- An earthquake shook southern California early today, causing little damage but worrying residents who fear a massive disaster like those recently seen in Haiti and Chile.
The quake was measured at a 4.4 magnitude, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was centered about one mile from Pico Rivera, Calif., and about 11 miles from the Los Angeles Civic Center.
Los Angeles County Fire Department supervisor Andre Gougis told The Associated Press that the agency was surveying the area, but had received no immediate reports of damage.
USGS geophysicist Jessica Sigala told ABCNews.com that the buildings and infrastructure around Los Angeles should hold up against this type of earthquake.
"With a 4.4 here, we probably wouldn't see substantial damage, just a lot of shaking," Sigala said, adding that the quake was hard enough probably just to knock books off shelves and maybe break windows.
The area may see some aftershocks, she said, but they will likely be smaller than the initial earthquake.
Could this tremor have been a "foreshock," a first sign of the major earthquake Californians have been warned to expect sometime in coming decades?
"There's always a chance, but no, not realistically, no," said John Bellini of the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. "It's just part of the day-to-day seismicity they get in Southern California. People should always be ready, and have disaster plans in place, just in case."
The quake hit just before 4 a.m. when most residents were still in bed.
Commenters on ABC's Los Angeles affiliate KABC reported feeling the earthquake in several of the surrounding towns.
"The earthquake knocked me out of bed," one Arcadia poster wrote. "It was pretty scary!!! I ran out from house and it was so cold outside and I stayed in car like 10 min, after I got back home I couldn't sleep."
California Earthquake Hits Not Far From 1987 Disaster
Another commenter, from Rancho Cucamonga, described something much less violent.
"I felt the earthquake as a short, very sharp jolt that shook the whole house but lasted only a second or two," the poster wrote. "I thought at first it was wind as we get very strong winds here, then realized it was an earthquake. I was awake or might not have felt it."
Though this earthquake was a fairly small event, it hit only about four miles from the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake that registered a 5.9 and killed eight people.
California's last major quake was the Northridge temblor in 1994. The powerful 6.7 magnitude quake killed 72 people and caused $20 billion worth of damage.
Additional reporting by Ned Potter. The Associated Press also contributed to this article.