Safety officials try to quash false rumors after earthquake in Utah

Mar 18, 2020, 5:51 PM | Updated: 5:55 pm
Safety officials try to quash false rumors after earthquake in Utah, President Trump green lit FEMA...
(The broken exterior of Colosimo's in Magna after the quake. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(The broken exterior of Colosimo's in Magna after the quake. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Emergency officials are pointing the fingers at social media after several false rumors were going around after this morning’s earthquake.  They say these rumors caused a lot of unnecessary anxiety, and they want to set the record straight.


One of the more prevalent rumors was that the University of Utah seismologists were predicting a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake to hit the Wasatch Front shortly after the 5.7 magnitude quake that hit northern Utah this morning.  Geology and geophysics professor Keith Koper says not only did they not make that prediction, but a quake of that intensity wouldn’t be possible, here.

“The faults that are in Utah are simply not big enough to accommodate a magnitude 9.0,” he says.

Koper says geological evidence shows the largest quake we could expect in Utah is roughly 7.5 on the Richter scale.  He also says there is a small chance that the Wednesday morning quake could be a foreshock to a larger one. However, the chances of that were very small.

Koper says, “There is a slightly increased probability that we could have an earthquake that’s a little bit bigger than a 5.7, but that’s only a few percent probability and it’s going down, with time.”


While there was a chemical spill at a Kennecott facility sparked by the quake, safety officials say the federal government never insisted that people in Salt Lake County “shelter in place.”

Salt Lake City Fire Chief Karl Lieb says, “FEMA is not coming out with that.  We are in touch with FEMA and working with the federal government.  That is not a narrative, though, that we need to panic about or worry about.”

Lieb also says many people have been given a lot of bad information about what to do after a quake hits.  For instance, he says there’s no need to shut off gas lines inside your home unless you either smell or hear a gas leak.  Also, he says it’s a bad idea to brace yourself in a doorway while the quake is happening.

“It is actually best to get under a table, a solid surface or a desk,” Lieb says.


If you bought gas this morning, you may have noticed the lines were longer than normal.  That’s due to another rumor that spread saying the refineries in Utah, and people needed to buy as much gas as possible before the prices go up.  Officials with the Utah Petroleum Association issued a statement saying all of the employees at refineries were safe, and they didn’t expect any significant change in production.

Officials from Chevron also issued a statement…

“The Salt Lake Refinery sustained no known structural damage due to the earthquake the morning of March 18. We maintain and follow robust procedures in the event of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake. These emergency procedures ensure our workforce is accounted for and all structures and equipment are continuing to function as designed. Chevron continues to supply the market and fulfill commitments to our customers.”


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Safety officials try to quash false rumors after earthquake in Utah