Earthquake hits Utah, rattling frayed nerves
SALT LAKE CITY — 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 at home 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,” said Gov. Gary Herbert, R-Utah.
Planes were diverted from Salt Lake City International Airport and the control tower and concourses were evacuated. Far fewer people than normal were in the airport, due to the coronavirus precautions.
No runway problems were found and most of the damage in the terminal appeared to be caused by a broken water line, Wyatt said. Cargo and noncommercial flights resumed hours later, but commercial flights were delayed into the afternoon.
People reported feeling
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THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2020 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 the Kennecott copper mine west of the 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 was moving away from populated areas.
Residents reported shaking across a 100-mile 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 had 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.
Damage was reported to roads and bridges, and natural gas leaks were reported at state government buildings, said Utah Public Safety Commissioner 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.
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, Rocky Mountain Power said.
It was the largest earthquake to hit Utah since a 5.9-magnitude quake shook the southern part of the state in 1992, according to Utah Emergency Management.
Construction workers in Salt Lake City looked at the rubble from a building after Wednesday’s 5.7-magnitude earthquake.