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New geological study shows fault lines meeting under SLC

Posted at 5:48 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-14 19:49:31-04

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Two active fault lines appear to connect under downtown Salt Lake City, according to a newly published geological study.

Scientists believe they have the potential to cause more damage than previously thought. Utah is believed to have a 50 percent risk of a large, damaging earthquake along the Wasatch Fault in 50 years.

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

“It’s been an outstanding question in the world of earthquakes: What happens when one fault ends and another one begins?” Boise State University’s Lee Liberty said during an interview with FOX 13 News.

In the core of Salt Lake City, scientists took an ultrasound of the earth and generated mini-earthquakes to learn how the ground has moved in the last 10,0000 years.

“There might be more faults underneath the city that we weren’t aware of,” said Utah Geological Survey geologist Adam McKean.

For three years, Liberty and McKean worked on a study published last week in The Seismic Record, a journal of the Seismological Society of America.

They discovered the Warm Springs Fault near Beck Street may connect underground with the East Bench Fault. They could, even, violently shake at the exact same time.

“One thing we learned is that these faults are connected beneath Salt Lake City, but they are connected between other fault segments. That is another place for a potentially elevated seismic hazard or earthquakes,” said Lee.

A large earthquake has the potential to permanently deform the ground, according to the study.

WATCH: $23 million in earthquake repairs still needed for two Salt Lake City landmarks

The ground could split apart and risk severe building damage on the surface.

Even moderate quakes could cause low-angle landslides and liquefaction, where the soil momentarily acts like a liquid and could settle or collapse foundations.

“Be prepared for something we know is going to happen, we don’t know when it is going to happen,” said McKean.

While the researchers don’t want to scare people, they say it’s important to know the risks and be prepared.

Information on how to prepare for an earthquake can be found here.