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Nik Jeppsen

Mike Kass

Natural Disasters


Salt Lake City Natural Hazards

Natural hazards that we could experience here in Salt Lake City, Utah include

earthquakes, landslides, radon gas, floods, snow avalanche, drought, and wildfires. These some

of the natural hazards that are most common but there are also the occasional hazards as well.

With so many hazards we also need to have ways to mitigate these hazards.

Earthquakes are a big natural hazard in Utah because of the various fault lines that we

have here, especially here in the Salt Lake Valley. “Hundreds of small earthquakes are recorded

each year, while damaging earthquakes (magnitude 5.5 and larger) occur on average every 10

years. Large earthquakes (magnitude 6.5 to 7.5) occur in Utah on average every 50 years.”

(Eldredge). One of the largest fault lines in Salt Lake City is the Wasatch fault line. This fault is

one that is on a critical watch because 80% of Utah’s population lives along this fault. Also, most

of Utah’s utility lines run along this area as well. Some of the safety measures that are taken for

when an earthquake occurs along this fault line are education and preparedness, as well as

planning wisely on land development and construction practices. The two largest earthquakes

recorded in Utah were in the Richfield area in 1901 with a magnitude of 6.5, and in Hansel

Valley in 1934 with a magnitude of 6.6.

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Another hazard that we take precautions against are rockslides and landslides. These will

occur when and earthquake occurs during our mountain ranges. Rockslides may occur within

175 miles in any direction from the epicenter of an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 or as

much as 60 miles with a magnitude of 6.0. Along the Wasatch Front, deeper-seated landslides

are likely to occur on steep slopes and topographic benches in wet, unconsolidated sediments.

Landslides generally do not occur as far away from an earthquake epicenter as rock falls. During

a magnitude 6.0 earthquake, landslides typically occur within 25 miles of the earthquake source.

We have many methods to reduce these hazards. “Proper planning and avoidance are the least

expensive measures, if landslide-prone areas are identified early in the planning and

development process. Care in site grading with proper compaction of fills are engineering of cut

slopes is a necessary follow up to good land-use planning. … Dewatering (draining) can have

major impact on stabilizing both slopes and existing landslides. Retaining structures built at the

toe of a landslide may help stabilize the slide and reduce the possibility of smaller slides.”


Radon gas is another natural hazard that we are concerned about here in Salt Lake. Radon

gas is a radioactive gas that has no smell, taste, or color. This gas comes from natural decay of

uranium that is found in nearly all rocks and soil. So why is radon gas a hazard? It is not, at least

outdoors. This is because air movement scatters radon into the atmosphere. It is a hazard indoors

on the other hand because the gas collects in the enclosed space and has no airflow to spread it to

the atmosphere. “There are four conditions that must be present. The building must: 1) be built

on the ground that contains sufficient uranium. 2) have underlying soil that allows easy

movement of radon. 3) have porous building materials, cracks, or other openings below the
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ground surface that allow radon from soil to enter the building. 4) have a lower air pressure

inside than in the soil around the foundation.” (Utah Geological Survey). Some mitigation

technics that are used for this problem are using underground pipes and an exhaust fan, sealing

cracks and other openings in the floors and walls are a basic approach. The way that you choose

to mitigate the radon is depending on your house. The best way to find out what way to do so is

to contact the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control.

Flooding in Salt Lake City is due to dam failures, seiches in lakes and reservoirs, surface-

water diversion, and increased ground-water discharge. Flooding due to failure of a major dam

up the canyons would possible be caused by property damage, poor construction, and improper

maintenance. Some ways to prevent this is proper security and blockades, proper inspections as

the construction of the structure is being built, and regular maintenance of the structure.

Flooding can result from disruption of surface drainage. “Water tanks, pipelines, and aqueducts

may be ruptured, or canals and stream courses diverted by ground shaking, surface faulting,

ground tilting, and land sliding during earthquakes. Ground-water discharge may increase,

causing local surface flooding and erosion.” (Dep. Of Commerce). Some ways of mitigating

floods are preparation, education, sand bagging. These are very important because we cannot

prevent floods, but we can control where they go and how they effect our city. An example of

this was in 1983 when Salt Lake City had to turn their biggest street, State Street, into a

manmade river as the snow melted in late May. May 29 churches were canceled, and businesses

gave their employees the day off to help place a million sandbags next to the street and build

bridges over the soon to be river for cars and people. The river lasted for 13 days and then

everything was cleaned up and the bridges that cost 30 thousand dollars to build were taken

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Snow Avalanches are a major hazard here in the Salt Lake area, especially in the Wasatch

mountain range. This is because of terrain, snowpack conditions, high earthquake potential,

population density, and heavy backpack and ski use. Some of the best ways to mitigate this

hazard are 1) Blasting, what the ski resorts do to help prevent avalanches when skiers go places

where it could happen. 2) Beacons and balloon backpacks for the backcountry skiers and shoers.

3) Restricted areas.

Drought is another potential hazard that we can face here in Salt Lake. This can occur

when we do not receive enough snow or rain. Some of the ways that we have prepared for

conditions like this is by building dams and controlling the amount of water that we release and

allow for use. We have no water days, where we do not water our lawns because of the water


The last natural hazard that we are concerned about is wildfires. Wildfires can ruin homes

and cause injuries or death to people and animals. A wildfire is an unplanned fire that burns in a

natural area such as a forest, grassland, or prairie. Wildfires can:

 Often be caused by humans or lightning.

 Cause flooding or disrupt transportation, gas, power, and communications.

 Happen anywhere, anytime. Risk increases with in periods of little rain and high winds.

 Cost the Federal Government billions of dollars each year.

If you are under a wildfire warning, get to safety right way.

 Leave if told to do so.

 If trapped, call 9-1-1.

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 Listen for emergency information and alerts.

 Use N95 masks to keep particles out of the air you breathe.

With all these natural hazards there are many ways to help all of us stay safe. If you follow

these precautions and take all preventative measures, then we can help prevent most of these

natural hazards and protect the place that we live. For those that we cannot prevent then do all

that we can do control them and protect as much and as many people as we possibly can.
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Reference page

DHS, Ready. “Wildfires.” Wildfires |, 0AD,

Eldredge, Sandra L. Utah Natural Hazards Handbook. 2008,

Robinson, Robert M. “U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper.” Google Books, 1993,

Survey, Utah Geological. “Radon Information & Radon-Hazard Potential Maps.” Utah
Geological Survey, 0AD,

US Department of Commerce,?, and ? Noaa. “Flooding in Utah.” National Weather Service,

NOAA's National Weather Service, 12 Mar. 2018,