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Odds of the Next Big Wasatch Earthquake

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New warnings for Utahn’s to prepare for a major earthquake. We have all heard the dire predictions of the earthquake that is set to hit the Wasatch fault line. It’s not much of “if, but when.” Geologist scientists are now saying the odds of it happening are about the same odds you face in a casino playing blackjack. With those odds are you willing to gamble that a quake won’t happen?


Randall Carlisle an ABC4 reporter traveled to Wells, Nevada because that is the closest city to Utah that suffered a recent major earthquake. Residents there remember what it was like.


“I just heard this rattling,” says Doug Gadd. “I thought a train was crashing into my house.”

Matt Holford says it went “Kaboom! When it did, I ran out the back door in time to see all the old buildings downtown fall down.”

“I thought a train had derailed,” remembers City Manager Jolene Supp. “Or maybe an airliner had wrecked. My husband was the one who said that was an earthquake.”

Current Mayor Layla Walz says “the floor just kind of dropped out from underneath us. It was almost as if we’d been standing on a rug and someone started shaking it. It was a big rolling effect and I was flopping.”

City Manager Supp estimates about $10 million in damages from the quake alone. Many downtown buildings crumbled. They’ve been torn down with piles of rubble serving as a grim reminder of what happened.

A team of 14 northern utah geologist concluded, “It could occur later today. It could occur tomorrow. It could occur days, months or years down the road. But we know in the next 50 years it’s 1 out of 2.”

The Wasatch fault runs 240 miles from southern Idaho to central Utah. The most threatening part of the fault line is between Brigham City and Nephi. Scientists are predicting a quake of 6.75 magnitude or greater. In that scenario they say there would be 2,500 fatalities, 9,300 life threatening injuries, 84,000 families displaced from their homes and total short term economic losses of $33 billion. Just in the state of Utah alone.

FEMA has a massive emergency plan in place when the “big one” hits here. “We literally thousands of people ready to come here and help us, but that could take a week or more.”They would not be ready at the instant because they aren’t ready to leave on a moment’s notice, but because they couldn’t get here.  Roads could be impassable and airports out of service. Hospitals may or may not be operating, but you might have trouble getting to them.

And don’t expect to see your local police officer or firefighter to be there.

Sean Mcgowan, Earthquake Program Manager at FEMA explains “we anticipate a lot of first responders locally would themselves be impacted. So, in addition to being firefighters and police officers, they’re also husbands and fathers and wives and daughters. They would have their own families to take care of.”

The official FEMA being prepared list goes on to include.


  1. React Safely. Learn what to do during an earthquake, Talk to the family about having a safe point.
  2. Take Cover. In each room of your home, identify the safest places to “drop, cover, and hold on” during an earthquake.
  3. Survive on Your Own.
  4. Stay in Contact.
  5. Care for People, Pets, and Property.
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20 Responses to “Odds of the Next Big Wasatch Earthquake”

  1. Ozzly rallis on May 23rd, 2017 1:53 pm

    You did a good job showing examples of earthquakes that have happened near us.

  2. adviser on May 23rd, 2017 1:55 pm

    One more sentence.

  3. Davis Wright on May 23rd, 2017 2:07 pm

    This article was very informative. I really enjoyed it.

  4. Karina on May 23rd, 2017 2:13 pm

    It is good to warn people and the community about possible emergencies so that if it actually happens the are prepared and know what to do immediately. We have to look for each other and it;’s interesting to know about these kinds of things.

  5. Nunia Latu on May 23rd, 2017 2:17 pm

    Thank you for warning all of us about these earthquakes that could happen anywhere. I wouldn’t think that a earthquake could happen in Utah

  6. sabrine hassen on May 23rd, 2017 2:19 pm

    Really helpful with the many examples you provided, gave me a sense of mind to how bad the earthquake could be if we were to really have one. Also I liked the tips you included!

  7. Kristi Harris on May 24th, 2017 11:47 am

    You did a great job with being descriptive. Love this article!

  8. Kat Hicks on May 24th, 2017 1:36 pm

    I’m very thankful you decided to give information about a topic that can happen anywhere throughout the world. It gave detail to how serious earthquakes are and many people, In my option, should keep this in mind.

  9. Nathalie Ramirez on May 24th, 2017 1:55 pm

    This was a very helpful article. Good job the details.

  10. Alberto Carrillo on May 24th, 2017 1:57 pm

    Thank your for informing us of the odds of an earthquake happening here in Utah, they are not very odd. thank you for letting me know where the fault line is and where it Is located, I feel more informed.

  11. Nick Budd on May 24th, 2017 1:57 pm

    I have not well prepared, for the Wasatch Earthquake, I will talk to my family and see what I can do to prepare. Thank you for writing this article.

  12. Marlene Camba on May 24th, 2017 2:04 pm

    This was a really helpful article. The bad thing is that we might know that an earthquake might be approaching but we don`t know exactly when. Thanks for adding some tips of how to prepare for one, that way if an earthquake hits people would be able to know how to prepare for one.

  13. sione angilau jr B 5/6 on May 24th, 2017 2:06 pm

    This is just very good information to know when any earthquake occurs. Thanks for educating me more on earthquake now I know what to do and how to be prepared for it. AWSOME JOB!!!!!

  14. Stephen liddle on May 25th, 2017 8:27 am

    I’ve always been curious how this earthquake is going to go down. I feel like i have a good picture of what the possibilities are now. This article was very informative and got the point out.

  15. Abram Villegas on May 25th, 2017 8:32 am

    I hope that earthquake doesn’t happen too soon. “a predicting a quake of 6.75 magnitude or greater. In that scenario they say there would be 2,500 fatalities, 9,300 life threatening injuries, 84,000 families displaced from their homes and total short term economic losses of $33 billion. Just in the state of Utah alone.” Very scary but thank you for warning us.

  16. Nestor Mendoza on May 25th, 2017 8:52 am

    this is a well detailed article. writing from the past earthquakes we’ve had. It. also letting us know about maybe a big earthquake we might have.

  17. Jack Eliason on May 25th, 2017 8:56 am

    Nice job informing everybody on how life threatening this earthquake could be. We should start during more earthquake drills.

  18. Jorge Garcia on May 25th, 2017 9:05 am

    Great job, letting everyone know more about life threatening the earthquakes that could be. Very detailed. I say we should do more earthquake drills.

  19. Kayla Lien on May 30th, 2017 12:28 pm

    This information is important to have. Earthquakes are deadly, and knowing how to stay safe in one is half the battle.

  20. Manisha on January 31st, 2018 12:26 pm

    Great job with giving examples!

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Odds of the Next Big Wasatch Earthquake