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One year later, here's what scientists have learned since magnitude 5.7 earthquake near Magna

New study on Magna quake reveals more about Wasatch Fault
Posted at 4:57 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 07:35:26-04

MAGNA, Utah — Thursday is the one-year anniversary of the 5.7 magnitude earthquake that jolted Utahns out of bed in the Salt Lake Valley and, since then, scientists have learned new information about the Wasatch Fault.

READ: Federal assistance still available for losses from Magna earthquake

The quake struck at 7:09 a.m. on March 18, 2020. It caused more than $2 million in damage across the Salt Lake Valley, particularly near the epicenter in Magna. Since then, roughly 2,590 earthquakes have been recorded as part of the same sequence and have been felt to varying degrees.

A new study of the quake conducted by the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, the Utah Division of Emergency Management and the Utah Geological Survey found that the Magna fault line is a part of the larger Wasatch Fault.

"We think of the fault being as next to the mountains on the east side of [Salt Lake City]," Katherine Whidden, a research scientist at University of Utah Seismograph Stations, said in an interview Wednesday with FOX 13. "It dips to the west, so it dips under the whole city. Because it dips at a shallower angle than we previously thought, it’s closer to the surface than we thought it was. So therefore, the earthquakes are closer to the people."

That means the shaking in future earthquakes will be higher than previously thought, Whidden said.

"I would say we’re going to feel it a bit more than we thought," she added.

In addition to giving new insight about fault lines and earthquakes in the Salt Lake Valley, Whidden said it can provide information when it comes to building codes. The University of Utah also warned that so many small earthquakes does not mean the pressure has been taken off of a significantly larger earthquake.

"We still have a 50% chance of a 6.5 or up to a 7 magnitude quake here along the Wasatch Front in the next 50 years," warned Wade Mathews with Utah's Division of Emergency Management, who oversees the state's "Be Ready Utah" initiative.

In fact, the Wasatch Front is about 100 years overdue for a major earthquake.

Mathews urged people to prepare now. The state has published a number of helpful guides for how to be ready in case of an earthquake. He said people should ensure they have an emergency kit, keep a pair of shoes and a flashlight by their bed in case of a disaster in the middle of the night, and have a communication plan for their family. People should also take steps to secure furniture.

When an earthquake strikes, he said, remember to "stop, drop and hold on."

"And check into earthquake insurance," Mathews said. "A lot of home insurance doesn’t cover earthquakes."

The Utah Division of Emergency Management will participate in a town hall on Thursday night to talk about the Magna earthquake. You can find out more information here.

More information about earthquake preparedness can be found here.