You are on page 1of 4

Crouch 1

Duncan Crouch
Antoni Jon Allred
Geography 1000
July 30, 2016
The Wasatch Fault Line
Utahans have long been settled in the Salt Lake valley. However, these early settlers may
not have known what kind of mind field they had found back in the mid 1800’s. Instead, it was
nearly forty years after settling down that the United States Geological Surveyors (USGS)
informed the settlers of the danger that future earthquakes on the Wasatch Mountain range are
highly possible due to a large fault line. These earthquakes could be devastating for the growing
town the settlers had erected. Nearly 150 years later, Utahans are still bracing for the next big
earthquake to “rock” their world.
When a rock undergoes enough stress it will fracture. When one of two sides of fractured
rock move, the result is what is known as a fault. Quick movements along these fractures or
faults cause rocks to break and suddenly move. This sudden movement begins to release the
latent energy to create an earthquake. The more energy that is released, the more powerful the
earthquake. “In normal faults, the hanging wall drops down relative to the footwall. Normal
faults can be huge and are often times responsible for uplifting mountain ranges in regions
experiencing tensional stress.”
The Wasatch Fault is a 240-mile normal fault line that lies on the western face of the
Wasatch Mountain Range in North Utah and part of Southern Idaho. Many residents of Utah do

Crouch 2

not realize that the fault is actually made up of several segments instead of one long line. As you
will notice in the image to the right “Fault Map”, these segments each have represent their own
danger to the public. On average, these segments are roughly 25 miles long.
In the 1980’s, nearly one hundred years after the first surveyors from the United State
Geological Surveyors, scientists from various institutions began to gather information about this
Wasatch Fault. This new information was used to help try and reduce the amount of earthquake
loss. The USGS supported geologists that prepared maps detail where typical ground failure
from Wasatch Fault earthquakes were expected to be the most severe. These hazard maps help
public leaders to evaluating requests for construction planning approval and in recommending
suitable land-use practices.
The USGS recently wrote an article that details some of the courses of action that Utah
has undertaken to help prepare for any earthquakes. They have:

Approved a state earthquake building code and proposed legislation on a broad range of
seismic safety issues, including earthquake insurance, earthquake-safety education in
public schools, and earthquake-rescue training for firefighters.

Created the Utah Seismic Safety Commission. This commission, which advises the
legislature and residents of Utah on earthquake safety issues, outlined a long-term
strategic plan for earthquake safety in January 1995.

Passed an ordinance for Salt Lake County that requires studies of geologic hazards to be
made before buildings are constructed in areas most at risk from earthquakes.

Crouch 3

Made major improvements in the public infrastructure. At least 10 fire stations in Salt
Lake City and 4 of 6 major hospital buildings have been strengthened or replaced with
new earthquake-resistant structures. More than 400 public and private school buildings in
the region have been evaluated for seismic resistance, and three high schools and one
grade school have been strengthened or replaced. In addition, the earthquake resistance of
the historic Salt Lake City and County Building has been increased.
One of the greatest things we can do as citizens of Utah is to become aware. This

awareness may not prevent an earthquake from happening but it will help us to take every course
of action we can to prepare for the worst. By knowing what threat lies beneath the mountains, we
can branch our and create a stronger network within our community that will allow for a quicker
recovery when the inevitable happens. Many Utahans will say that we have already past the time
frame for our next earthquake, therefore it is unlikely to happen. As an accounting student, this
fact only raises more alarm. Statistics and trends are relatable to nearly everything in life. If
history shows that earthquakes have systematically happened every ~350 years then the longer
we pass that mark, the higher the chance of it reoccurring grows.
If each side the fault continues press against each other, will the tension continue to
grow? If the tension continues to grow, will the earthquake be a higher magnitude than 7? Can
we survive an earthquake higher than 7? My call to action for every citizen of Utah is to become
informed about your home, your city and your state. By taking action we can become better
prepared when, not if, the next earthquake hits.

Crouch 4

Works Cited

Dastrub, Adam, R. "Ch 6 Tectonic Forces." Open Geography Education. Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, n.d. Web. 30 July 2016.
"Earthquake FAQ." U of U Seismograph Stations. University of Utah, n.d. Web. 30 July 2016.
Machette, Michael M., and William M. Brown. "Utah Braces for the Future." Utah Braces for the
Future. United State Geological Survey, 07 Apr. 2016. Web. 30 July 2016.