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Earthquake shakes Utah, Salt Lake Temple sustained minor damage

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The Salt Lake Temple the morning of March 18, 2020.
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UPDATE 2:30 p.m. SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A moderate earthquake Wednesday near Salt Lake City shut down a major air traffic hub, damaged a spire atop a temple and frightened millions of people already on edge from the coronavirus pandemic. There were no reports of injuries.

The 5.7-magnitude quake just after 7 a.m. damaged the spire and statue atop the iconic Salt Lake Temple. Elsewhere, bricks were showered onto sidewalks and a chemical plume was released outside the city.

The epicenter was just southwest of Salt Lake City, between the airport and Great Salt Lake. It was felt by about 2.8 million people who were already hunkered down inside their homes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Many ran outside in panic amid the shaking that lasted as long as 15 seconds.

"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.

Planes were diverted from Salt Lake Ci! ty International Airport and the control tower and concourses were evacuated. Far fewer people than normal were in the airport, due to the coronavirus precautions. On a typical travel day, the airport would have had about 24,000 people inside and more making connections. But there were just 9,000 on Wednesday, making an evacuation easier. airport executive director Bill Wyatt said.

Marsha Guertzgen of Evanston, Wyoming, was about to board a flight when the quake struck. "Pandemonium and chaos" immediately erupted in the terminal - only to be heightened by each aftershock, she said.

"Everybody was running around, they were scared, I don't think they knew what was going on," she said. "People were screaming, kids were screaming, people were climbing under things."

No runway damage was found and most of the damage in the terminal appeared to be caused by a broken water line, Wyatt said. Cargo and non-commercial flights resumed hours later, but commercial fli! ghts were delayed into the afternoon.

Elsewhere, there were reports of fallen lights and bookcases,

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

The quake shut down light-rail service for Salt Lake City and its suburbs. The chemical plume was released at Kennecott copper mine west of Salt Lake City and moved toward the Great Salt Lake, said Clint Mecham, Salt Lake County's emergency manager. Officials have not identified the chemicals involved, but Mecham said it was not expected to affect people since it's moving away from populated areas.

Residents reported shaking across a 100-mile (160-kilometer) area, with the heaviest impact in Salt Lake County, officials said.

Paramedics and fire crews responding to emergency calls asked people to first disclose if they have symptoms of coronavirus. If they did, the crews donned masks, gowns and gloves before attending to them.

Some virus testing was delayed by the earthquake and the state's coronavirus hotline ! was temporarily shut down while damage assessments were conducted.

Michelle Daneri, 30, said the coronavirus outbreak had kept her mostly inside her Salt Lake City home since Friday, but she emerged after the quake to search for her frightened cat and chatted with her neighbors outside.

"We're trying to check on each other but we're also trying to keep our distance," Daneri said. "I think we at least stood about 5 feet away from each other."

The experience made her wonder how to take precautions against the virus if she could not stay in her home. "It makes me feel a little bit on edge in my house, when that felt like a safe space," Daneri said.

Damage was reported to roads and bridges, and natural gas leaks were reported at state government buildings, said Utah Commissioner of Public Safety Jess Anderson.

Near the epicenter of the quake in the small town of Magna, 14 buildings were damaged and 100 people were evacuated, Unified Fire spokesman! Matthew McFarland said.

Homer Conder was among the residents who came to look at the damage. after feeling the quake as he was drinking his coffee.

"I stood up to move and it took me right off my feet," said Conder, a retired mechanical designer. "I narrowly missed getting hit in the head with a piece of pottery."

At Salt Lake Temple, the trumpet held by the Angel Moroni fell from the statue at the top of the temple and stones were displaced from the spire.

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

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 1992, according to Utah Emergency Management.


UPDATE 9:56 a.m.: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reports the Salt Lake Temple, which is undergoing a seismic upgrade, sustained minor damage during Wednesday morning's 5.7 earthquake.

The trumpet on the Angel Moroni statue fell off, and there is minor displacement of some of the temple's smaller spire stones.

Church spokesman Daniel Woodruff said no workers were injured, and crews on the job site have been sent home for the day as a full assessment is underway to determine needs going forward.

The epicenter was just southwest of Salt Lake City and about 2.8 million in the state probably felt the quake, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

Operations at Salt Lake City International Airport came to a halt and the control tower and concourses were evacuated, the airport tweeted. Officials were conducting a runway inspection to try to determine if there was any damage, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. Planes headed to Salt Lake City were diverted.

The quake also shut down the light rail service for Salt Lake City and its suburbs.


UPDATE 9:30 a.m.: SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook Salt Lake City and its suburbs early Wednesday, sending spooked residents fleeing their homes, knocking out power for tens of thousands and closing the city's airport.

The epicenter was just southwest of Salt Lake City and about 2.8 million in the state probably felt the quake, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

There were no initial reports of major damage to buildings or injuries, said Utah Emergency Management spokesman Joe Dougherty.

Operations at Salt Lake City International Airport came to a halt and the control tower and concourses were evacuated, the airport tweeted. Officials were conducting a runway inspection to try to determine if there was any damage, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. Planes headed to Salt Lake City were diverted.

The quake also shut down the light rail service for Salt Lake City and its suburbs.

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 seconds.

The quake knocked pictures from walls and dishes from shelves, and people reported feeling it in the neighboring states of Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada. Gov. Gary Herbert warned people to stay away from downtown Salt Lake City while officials assess damage.

About 55,000 people lost electricity in the Salt Lake City area, said utility Rocky Mountain Power.

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

Most shaking was reported in the Salt Lake County area, near the epicenter in the Salt Lake City suburb of Magna but the quake was felt 80 miles away in the Utah city of Logan.

After the initial quake struck at 7:09 am, the geological survey recorded four smaller quakes over the next 23 minutes, ranging in magnitude from 3.7 to 3.9.

Authorities said older buildings may have suffered structural damage though they did not expect to find severe damage in most structures, said Utah Emergency Management spokesman Joe Dougherty.

"We're hearing of lights falling down, bookcases falling down, we've heard of water lines breaking inside of buildings," Dougherty said.

He recommended that people check on their neighbors, but that advice that could be challenging when people are being told to say inside their homes to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"This is the time for people to really do the right thing, make sure everyone is taken care of," Dougherty said. "But we still do need to remember we have a pandemic going on at the same time."


UTAH (KIFI/KIDK)-UPDATE: 8:40 am The National Weather Service in Pocatello says two commercial flights bound for Salt Lake landed instead at Pocatello Airport this morning. It's reported the Salt Lake Airport is closed and suffered some minor damage. The road to the airport is also closed.

The National Weather Service at Pocatello Airport snapped this photo

8:15 a.m. Utah Emergency Management has received earthquake reports from Logan to Riverton. The strongest shaking seems to have been felt around Salt Lake County. The power has been knocked out in some areas.

ORIGINAL STORY: Utah Emergency Management reports the state experienced its largest earthquake since 1992. It was a 5.7 magnitude quake near Magna at around 7:09 am Mountain Time.

The US Geological Survey says the epicenter was 3.7 miles North Northeast of Magna, Utah.

The agency said more aftershocks should be expected.

Specifically, they forecast that over the next week there is a 6% chance of one or more aftershocks that are larger than magnitude 5.7. It is likely thee will be smaller earthquakes over the next week with 0 to 240 magnitude 3 or higher aftershocks. Magnitude 3 and above are large enough to be felt near the epicenter.

So far there have been 3 magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes, which are strong enough to be felt, and none that are large enough to do damage.

Idaho Falls / News / Top Stories / Utah

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