Wasatch Front has high chance for a damaging earthquake in the next century

Jan 31, 2024, 4:00 PM

damage from utah earthquake in 2020...

FILE: Caution tape surrounds the VFW building on Magna’s Main Street on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, following a 5.7 magnitude earthquake that was centered near the city on March 18. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

(Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A recently released map from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that the Wasatch Front has a 50% to 75% chance of experiencing a damaging earthquake within the next 100 years.

The USGS said in a release that the new map shows the latest assessment of earthquake risk for all 50 states. According to the USGS, almost 75% of the country, including Utah, faces some possibility of a damaging earthquake.

“Utah is earthquake country. There’s definitely a significant seismic hazard here,” said Jim Pechmann, a seismologist with the University of Utah.

The term “damaging” means any sort of damage. It’s very difficult to predict what extent that damage will be.

earthquake risk map shows utah and other states risk

2023 National Seismic Hazard Model. (U.S. Geological Survey)

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the southern portion of Utah shows a higher potential for a damaging earthquake than in previous surveys.

“Ground motion did go up in central and southeastern Utah, in areas of the Colorado Plateau,” Pechmann said.

Beyond Utah: the importance of these earthquake maps

Experts take these maps very seriously. Even builders consider these maps when creating structures to ensure the structure’s stability in areas with high earthquake probability.

“These maps are really important because they’re what underpins the building codes and the bridges and other things to keep us safe in an earthquake,” said Pechmann.

For now, make sure that you and your family understand earthquake safety protocol.  It’s also a good idea to check the earthquake safety of the buildings that you frequent.

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Wasatch Front has high chance for a damaging earthquake in the next century