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Utah earthquake: Debunking the rumors

Posted at 9:04 PM, Mar 18, 2020

Northern Utah residents immediately sought information and answers after feeling the earth shake on Wednesday morning.

According to a seismological report from United States Geological Survey, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake occurred with the epicenter roughly three miles north-northeast of Magna.

Following the initial quake, rumors started to flood social media after an email surfaced claiming to be from a 'stake president.' The email claimed that a very large aftershock was being predicted in a short time from the initial earthquake. Another rumor started that refineries were impacted and there would be a gas shortage.

The email read: "The University of Utah seismology just released a statement that they expect at least a 9.0 aftershock within the next 30 minutes. Please be safe. Stake Presidency."

Emergency management personnel and elected officials quickly learned of the fast-spreading message. They not only addressed it on social media, but in person at numerous press conferences throughout the day.

"We do not anticipate another large earthquake let alone a 9-point-something that's being reported through social media," said Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson in a midday press briefing.

"When you're hearing things know that we are sharing things as we know it, we're being transparent with that information and the rumors that are flying are nothing other than rumors," said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.

University of Utah Seismology Stations put out information regarding the predictability of earthquakes and how it pertains to Northern Utah.

"Based on past earthquake sequences around the world there is a small, about one in 20, chance of an earthquake larger than M 5.7 in the Salt Lake Valley area during the next week," U of U Seismology wrote. "Although it is possible that larger earthquake in this area could be in the magnitude range of 7.0 to 7.5, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the chance of an earthquake of this size is about one in 300."

The faults along the Wasatch Front are likely not capable of producing a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, according to seismologists.

As they've dealt with COVID-19, Utah Department of Emergency Management worked to debunk the rumor.

"When you see something that sounds incredible take that with a grain of salt, see if you can verify that before you just go ahead and share it," said UDEM spokesperson Joe Dougherty. "Please just check with verified, credible sources."

Dougherty recommends doing your own quick research before sharing or adding fuel to any email or social media post that seems like it may be untrue.

"We saw a lot of rumors that came out about the status of refineries that had not been verified," said Dougherty regarding another rumor circulating out of rural Utah communities. UDEM tells FOX 13 that gas stations are not currently at risk and refineries were not impacted as a result of the earthquakes.

When searching for factual information on major events, it's advised to turn to government sources and organizations that specialize in the topic. FOX 13 obtains information and frequently shares pertinent subjects in various LIVE BLOG formats on

FOX 13 reached out to the person believed to be involved in the first orchestrating of the original email but did not get a response. Citing the amount of 'stakes' in Utah, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints declined to comment in regards to the email.

People have been saying that officials are predicting an earthquake in the next 30 minutes.


Earthquakes cannot be predicted, we are 95% certain that this was the main shock.

— Utah Emergency Mgmt (@UtahEmergency) March 18, 2020