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The Great Utah earthquake is still looming. Here’s how lawmakers can prepare | Opinion




At 6:35 am on August 30, 1962, an earthquake shook the city of Logan severely. It was one of those life-changing events – something the rest of us would be wise to remember.

Witnesses said it started as a rolling rumble that quickly dissolved into the sound of broken glass and falling bricks.

Official sources differ on how powerful it is. The US Geological Survey sets it at 5.9 on the Richter scale. The University of Utah’s Historic Seismic Belt Seismic Project calls it 5.7, similar to the one that struck the Salt Lake Valley in March 2020.

But that has to do with the one thing the two have in common.

A small crowd sat down to breakfast at the table at Model Billiards on West Center Street in Logan that morning in 1962 when the walls came off and the roof collapsed. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

The roof over the chapel in the Logan IV Building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints collapsed, according to a Deseret News account at the time. Walls collapsed all over the city. On Federal Street, the Smith Printing Company has lost 40 feet of its west-facing wall.

The large and small windows were smashed and left debris across the city. Cans, broken glass and food litter the aisles of grocery stores. In Logan Temple, plaster fell from the ceilings and the weather and lightning bolts collapsed.

Neighboring Richmond suffered the worst damage. The LDS Benson Stake Tabernacle, an imposing brick building built in 1904, was so badly damaged that it was later forced to be demolished.

Remarkably, the only reported injury was of a girl in Richmond, who sustained a cut to her foot from a broken bottle.

By contrast, the Salt Lake earthquake 48 years later caused minimal damage, except for a certain type of building—those constructed with unreinforced stone.

Judging by news reports in 1962, this is the common denominator. Crumbling bricks, walls separating and falling off, causing roofs to collapse – these are the obvious signs of buildings held together only by bricks and mortar, with roofs held in place only by gravity.

A new report from the Utah Earthquake Safety Commission repeats an outdated estimate that 140,000 of these unsupported buildings are along the Wasatch front, ranging from single-family homes to apartments and office buildings. They were built before the strict 1976 building codes. Experts say that most injuries and deaths, especially in an earthquake much larger than the one in 2020, will occur in and around these buildings.

The report makes five recommendations for ways this year’s Utah legislature can now prepare for even greater, reducing the overall damage. These are intended to improve the four major aqueducts that carry water to the more than 2 million residents of Utah; To fund an ongoing study to repair school buildings that may be at risk; To ensure that buildings over 200,000 square feet or serving a vital purpose (hospitals, schools, police stations) undergo a rigorous structural review; that an early warning system be put in place; And for the public to be more aware of these 140,000 buildings at risk.

Frankly, the latter is not enough. With all the extra money lawmakers got this year, they should fund programs that help homeowners solve their problems. Some cities already have “fix the bricks” programs, but are underfunded. Unfortunately, many people who live in these structures have meager resources. Many of them are renters.

So the other thing lawmakers should do is pass a law requiring sellers to inform buyers that a home is unsupported and prone to earthquakes. This could be combined with requirements to let potential buyers know about state programs to help them solve the problem.

I heard realtors are against such a requirement. this is normal. But the condition will start putting pressure on landlords to fix the problem.

Simple perception is not enough.

This is one of those problems that makes every person a gambler, betting they will never have to face in their life. The report says the odds of an earthquake of 6.75 on the Richter scale or greater over the next 50 years for the Wasatch Front are basically a coin toss. Do you feel lucky?

If that happens, such an earthquake could change this place forever, destroying our economy and our way of life for many years. FEMA officials predict it may be among the deadliest natural disasters in US history, matching the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

In Logan, damage from the relatively mild 1962 earthquake has entrenched itself in memory banks forever. In 2012, the Logan Herald Journal reported on the 50th anniversary commemoration event.

Richard Bagley, the former mayor of Richmond, told the newspaper that the earthquake changed his city forever, destroying two churches and many homes. “It just changed the way we look,” he said.

Utah leaders must do everything they can now to make sure that the more populous Wasatch front of Logan in 1962 will be altered as little as possible if a big one hits.




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