Tom and Caroline Payne arrived in California just hours after a 6.4 earthquake shook the state on July 5. On Friday night, the couple were on the top floor of their hotel in Costa Mesa when an even larger earthquake struck.

"The whole room started vibrating and shaking," Caroline Payne said Saturday. "We ran into the hallway, and the hallway started shaking."

Friday night's earthquake in California registered 7.1 in magnitude at the epicenter, making it the strongest earthquake in California in 20 years, according to the Washington Post. Payne said, in Costa Mesa, the earthquake registered 6.9 in magnitude, causing her and her husband to flee the hotel's top floor.

"Since we were unfamiliar with earthquakes, we decided we would go outside the building," Payne said. "It didn't look like anyone was panicked to us."

The Paynes were in California for the Sons of the American Revolution's annual Congress Convention. The Hilton where the couple were staying had been built to earthquake standards, Payne said she was told by the hotel staff.

But the couple asked to be transferred to a room on the hotel's first floor, rather than staying on the very top, Payne said.

"What alarmed me was there were minor cracks on the steps coming down, and some on the concrete landing," Payne said. The couple did not know if the cracks had been caused by the earthquake, and haven't had time to see if there was earthquake damage around town, Payne said.

"The people from California said this is commonplace," but were still concerned about the magnitude of the earthquake, Payne said.

The couple went on with attending the convention, but had been unsettled by the incident, Payne said.

"I swear, last night I would've slept in my car, if I'd had one here," Payne said. "... You just feel helpless. You keep waiting for the next one."

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

(1) comment

Randall Head

It was nowhere near a 6.9 by the time it hit Costa Mesa. The epicenter was 150 miles away, up in the desert where few people live. For the people who live there, I'm sure it was terrifying, but by the time the waves got here to Orange County (where Costa Mesa is), all we felt was about 15 seconds of gentle rolling waves. We had a 5.6 in Irvine, about 8 miles from here, during the UK-UofL basketball game a few years back. THAT was SCARY! But the quakes Thursday and Friday were no big deal here.

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