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Why geologists say our big quake wasn't big

Posted at 7:17 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 21:17:05-04

If you want to tell someone your “My experience of the big quake” story, maybe don’t tell a geologist.

They might yawn.

Geologists see a 5.7 magnitude quake as “moderate.”

Yup. Mobile homes off their foundations, airport shut for hours, old facades crumbling and a plume of hydrochloric acid over the Oquirrhs is “moderate.”

Forgive the geologists…instead of second hands, their watches have year hands. A century is nothing. A millennium starts getting interesting.

Some facts from the Utah Geological Survey:

A big quake happens on the Wasatch Fault happens about ever 300 years.

The last big one was in Nephi 200 years ago. You can tell because it made headlines in the Nephi Times for a week. That’s a lie. There was no Nephi 200 years ago.

Geologists dig giant trenches to figure out when big earthquakes happened and how big they were.

There was a big one in Salt Lake 1300 years ago.

The Weber and Provo sections of the Wasatch Fault had a big one 600 years ago.

No one can predict an earthquake. The best geologists can say is there’s a one-in-five chance we’ll have a big one along the Wasatch Front in the next 50 years.