SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Utahns have felt five earthquakes in as many days, prompting warnings from experts about preparedness for quakes of even bigger magnitudes.
Friday morning, residents in Bluffdale and the surrounding area were awakened by 3.7 and 3.3 magnitude quakes – and Wednesday morning a second shock was felt in the town of Kanosh, near Fillmore, with a magnitude of 4.03.
“It’s unusual, but it’s not unprecedented,” said University of Utah seismologist Jim Pechmann of the recent bout of seismic activity in several areas of the state.
Small quakes register daily in Utah on seismometers, but Pechmann said this most recent felt seismic activity should remind all Utahns to prepare themselves for a potentially catastrophic earthquake.
“These should all serve as a wake up that we do live in earthquake country and we could have a large earthquake at any time,” said Pechmann.
For decades, scientists have predicted a catastrophic earthquake along the Wasatch Fault, which stretches from Brigham City to Nephi at the base of the Wasatch Mountain range.
“People tend to focus on ‘the big one,'” Pechmann said. “I guarantee you, a 6.0 magnitude quake underneath the Salt Lake Valley would knock down buildings…vulnerable buildings.”
Pechmann referenced the 6.6 magnitude Hansel Valley quake that killed two and severely damaged several structures in the Salt Lake City area. The quake struck just north of the Great Salt Lake, far from the city – still, structures were damaged.
Pechmann said a quake does not have to strike near heavily-populated areas to threaten lives and structures. “An earthquake like that on the Salt Lake City segment [of the Wasatch Fault] would be the worst-case scenario.”
Experts predict billions of dollars in damage, nearly 10,000 people injured and more than 2,500 killed in the event of the predicted 7.5 magnitude earthquake.
Click here for a list of earthquake preparedness tips.