5.7-Earthquake Shakes Utah, Closes Salt Lake Airport

5.7-Earthquake Shakes Utah, Closes Salt Lake Airport

A strong earthquake struck Salt Lake City Wednesday, damaging some roads and buildings, shutting down a major air traffic hub and scaring millions of people already on edge from the coronavirus pandemic.

The 5.7-magnitude quake just after 7 a.m. showered bricks onto sidewalks, sent a chemical plume into the air outside the city and damaged a spire and statue atop the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ iconic Salt Lake Temple.

The epicenter was just southwest of Salt Lake City, between the city’s international airport and the Great Salt Lake. The temblor and its aftershocks were felt by about 2.8 million people. Most were hunkered down inside their homes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when buildings started shaking, and many ran outside to the streets in panic.

This is extremely bad timing, because we already have the coronavirus issue going on right now causing a lot of anxiety,” Gov. Gary Herbert said.

There were no reports of injuries in the hours immediately after the 7:09a quake, Utah Emergency Management spokesman said.

Operations at Salt Lake City International Airport came to a halt, planes were diverted and the control tower and concourses were evacuated.

Far fewer people than normal were in the airport.

On a typical travel day, the airport would have had about 24,000 people inside it and more making connections. But there were just 9,000 there, said the airport’s executive director making an evacuation of the terminal easier.

No runway damage was found and most of the damage in the terminal appeared to be caused by a broken water line, Wyatt said.

The quake also shut down the light rail service for Salt Lake City and its suburbs. It caused the release of chemicals at Kennecott copper mine west of Salt Lake City, creating a visible plume that moved toward the Great Salt Lake, said Clint Mecham, Salt Lake County’s emergency manager.

Officials have not identified the chemicals sent into the air in the plume, but Mecham said it was not expected to affect people since it’s moving away from populated areas.

Residents reported feeling shaking across a 100-mile area, with the heaviest impact in Salt Lake County, officials said.

Some residents ran from their homes and into the streets as they felt the earthquake shake buildings for 10 to 15 secs.

The underlying concern about the coronavirus outbreak was evident in the response to the quake. Paramedics and fire crews responding to emergency calls asked people to first disclose if they have symptoms. If they did, the crews geared up with masks, gowns and gloves before attending to them, officials said.

Health officials’ coronavirus response operations were briefly disrupted by the earthquake. Some virus testing was delayed and the state’s coronavirus hotline was temporarily shut down while damage assessments were conducted.

There were reports of damage in Salt Lake City and in the communities of Magna and Kearns, but authorities said they did not expect it to be severe. Fire officials in Magna said 14 structures were damaged.

There was damage to roads and bridges and Nat Gas leaks were reported at state government buildings, said Utah Commissioner of Public Safety Jess Anderson.

In Salt Lake City, bricks fell off the side of a homeless shelter and the Salt Lake Temple sustained minor damage, with the trumpet falling from the Angel Moroni statue at the Top of the Temple and stones displaced from a spire.

The Temple is undergoing renovations and a seismic upgrade. Construction crews were sent home while the damage is being assessed, a church spokesman said in a statement.

But authorities did not expect to find severe damage in most structures, said the emergency management spokesman.

People reported feeling the quake in the neighboring states of Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada.

About 73,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in the Salt Lake City area, but power was quickly being restored in some areas, said utility Rocky Mountain Power.

It was the largest earthquake to hit Utah since a 5.9 magnitude quake shook southern Utah in Y 1992, according to Utah Emergency Management

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Paul Ebeling

Paul A. Ebeling, polymath, excels in diverse fields of knowledge. Pattern Recognition Analyst in Equities, Commodities and Foreign Exchange and author of “The Red Roadmaster’s Technical Report” on the US Major Market Indices™, a highly regarded, weekly financial market letter, he is also a philosopher, issuing insights on a wide range of subjects to a following of over 250,000 cohorts. An international audience of opinion makers, business leaders, and global organizations recognizes Ebeling as an expert.

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