Emergency preparedness friends of mine used to joke that the two worst disasters that could happen in Utah at one time would be a major earthquake and a huge snowstorm. So far, we haven't had that final spring "dumper" from Mother Nature, but we did have a big quake in Magna on March 18 and a virus plague that has shut down most of the state.
COVID-19 will be here for a while and hopefully then will go away until the next rare pandemic. Earthquakes, though, remain a perennial threat because we live in a state full of faults (pun intended!) and fault zones.
Utah State geologists remind us of Utah's three active faults: the Wasatch, Hurricane and Needles. The western side of our Wasatch Mountains has a fault that runs about 240 miles, from southern Idaho through northern Utah and ending in central Utah near Fayette. Annually, Utah registers about 700 earthquakes, but we only feel less than 2% of them—maybe 13 or so over 3.0 in magnitude. The March 18 shaker threw me out of bed with the cat on top of me, and according to the U of U Seismic Stations, we've had more than 1,400 aftershocks since then. The original 5.7 quake, luckily, caused no deaths or serious injuries, but there was much reported damage to older properties.
The walls of the Rio Grande Depot—home to the Winter Farmers Market—lost a lot of interior plaster, and it's now closed to the public. The Fisher Mansion and Carriage House at 1206 W. 200 South got hammered as did about 150 historic buildings from Magna to Sugar House. Brick facades collapsed, and roofing structures that weren't tied to home walls went askew.
A 2016 Salt Lake City grant program fortuitously had already helped more than 300 homeowners with the costs of seismic structural improvements, including roof-to-wall connections and chimney-bracing reinforcements. And now, there's a huge waiting list of folks wanting financial help to secure their older homes (for details, visit email@example.com).
The Great Utah Shakeout (shakeout.org/Utah) took place on April 16. Right on cue, Salt Lake experienced a 4.2 aftershock on that very day. A visit to the Shakeout website provides tips on how to prepare for not only earthquakes but many major disasters. There's a Beat the Quake game, links to Red Cross Mobile Apps, information from FEMA as well as FAQs, flyers, drill manuals and videos.
A friend of mine called the day after the March 18 earthquake and shared how panicked she was during the first tremor and aftershocks. I asked her if she had a "go bag" for emergencies, and she responded that she had never heard of such a thing. An emergency bag is something you can grab and run with that might contain copies of your personal papers, cash, flashlight with extra batteries, an old-school transistor radio (in case of no power), first-aid kit, etc. You can find a video on the Shakeout website showing how to prepare a Grab and Go bag. Do keep the animal crates assessible!
This doesn't mean you should hoard, though, because if your house has fallen off its foundation, you won't be able to get to those cases of toilet paper! Time for us all to embrace the scouts' motto: Be prepared.