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Each speaker at the Wasatch Fault Geology Lectures on Friday night, as part of Weber State University’s Shake Up Earthquake Preparedness Fair, spoke to the theme of, “It’s not if, but when.”
Sigma Gamma Epsilon, WSU’s geology honor society, put on the lectures as well as the fair on Saturday.
The event included lectures by WSU professors Adolph Yonkee, Michael Hernandez and WSU Chief of Police Dane LeBlanc. Each speaker was brought in to answer questions for community members interested in learning about earthquakes.
Sara Yearsley, chapter president of Sigma Gamma Epsilon, said the idea of the lecture came after community members expressed interest in information regarding earthquakes.
“(It’s) a look into the intellectual side of earthquakes,” Yearsley said. “It’s the technical hazards of earthquakes.”
The majority of the state’s population lives near the Wasatch Fault, and the WSU campus is included in the fault area. Researchers have said that the Wasatch Front has a 20 to 25 percent chance of experiencing a severe earthquake in the next 50 years, making personal preparedness important knowledge for Utahns.
Hernandez encouraged everyone to learn as much as possible about earthquakes.
“Understand how it might affect you, and prepare to be on your own for a week just because we don’t know what the earthquake will do until we experience it,” Hernandez said. “Learn as much as you can about them, understand what the effects can be on you and prepare to mitigate those effects. There is no way to stop an earthquake.”
Utah has between 1,000 to 2,000 earthquakes a year, but most are not felt by humans and do not cause significant damage.
Although is not possible to predict an earthquake, researchers have projected the likelihood of Utah having a major earthquake and the approximate magnitude of such an earthquake. Yonkee said that a severe earthquake in Utah would have a magnitude of around seven. The damages of such an earthquake would be comparable to the 1995 earthquake of Kobe, Japan, based on population and geological similarities.
“The most widespread effect would be ground shaking,” Yonkee said. “That can cause damage to buildings and lifelines, and hazards like liquefaction and landslides and potential flooding.”
Of particular concern in Utah would be liquefaction, which occurs when the shaking of the earthquake causes the soil to become liquefied, making the soil lose strength. This results in significant property damage when buildings lose stability and sink.
As dangerous as earthquakes are, Yonkee said that it is important for people to remain calm and focus on earthquake preparedness.
“Panicking is counterproductive,” Yonkee said. “Remember personal preparedness. Have a 72-hour kit — or even longer.”
Earthquakes are a very real possibility in Utah, and since they cannot be predicted, personal preparedness is key. Devastating earthquakes can knock out power, shut down water, make lifelines such as hospitals inaccessible and force people to be homebound for extended periods of time. Oftentimes in natural disasters, rescue teams may not be available to assist victims for several days. Having first aid kits, water and food storage are essential in the case of an earthquake.
Even though earthquakes cannot be predicted, being prepared for them can make a natural disaster slightly less devastating.