Report: Magnitude 6 Quake Would Be Deadly in Salt Lake City

April 11, 2008

A new report says an earthquake like the one that hit Wells, Nev., two months ago would have catastrophic effects if it were centered in Salt Lake City.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says a quake with a magnitude of 6.0 could kill 16 or 17 people and damage more than 86,000 buildings along the city’s Wasatch Front.

The report, compiled with help from University of Utah experts, is based on what would happen if the West Valley Fault were to slip. The fault line runs just west of Interstate 215.

Walter J. Arabasz, director of the University of Utah’s seismograph stations, said the odds of a 6.0 earthquake in the area is roughly 1 in 250, or about 20 percent in the next 50 years.

The report says if such an earthquake were to occur, there would be $2.5 billion in damage and 1,004 buildings would be unsalvageable. Researchers say the buildings hit hardest would be unreinforced masonry buildings. Those who own them, or who live or work in them, face special hazards.

All but five of the 1,004 destroyed buildings would be brick or another type of unreinforced masonry, the study estimates. All of the projected deaths would come in unreinforced masonry buildings.

Bob Carey, earthquake coordinator for the Utah Department of Homeland Security, says the report will help motivate people and agencies to better prepare for a quake.

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