Magna officials, safety experts talk of physical, emotional aftershock after 5.7 magnitude quake; lingering danger

Photo: Gephardt Daily/Mary Maestas

MAGNA, Utah, March 21, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — As significant aftershocks continued Saturday, three days after Wednesday’s 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Magna, city and safety officials gathered to update the public about dealing with the damages.

At the 2 p.m. news conference, just three hours after a 3.4 magnitude aftershock, Magna City officials thanked all first-responders who kept area residents safe after the Wednesday quake, and who dealt with immediate emergencies, such as fallen bricks and walls.

No significant injuries were reported, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has said.

At the Saturday news conference, Trent Sorenson, chief building official for the Great Salt Lake Municipal Services District, revealed that approximately 150 people had reported being displaced from their homes or businesses by the quake.

Most of the news conference was devoted to thanking first-responders for their quick and effective help, and to expressing gratitude to area residents who helped their neighbors during difficult times.

But Sorensen also talked about a very specific danger that could remain after fallen bricks have been collected.

He said a major concern is that older buildings, particularly those with chimneys of unreinforced masonry, may have sustained damage that could put homeowners at risk due to undetected venting issues.

“If you have masonry chimneys, this is where we’re really seeing the biggest area of concern right now,” he said. “Some of those chimneys are being used for venting for your furnace, your water heater, or other appliances.

“If your masonry chimney is being used for that, it may have shifted or otherwise been compromised to perform its function, and it may not be immediately apparent from the outside of the chimney or vent that it has been compromised.

“And if that vent is not working properly, that is combustion gases from the appliances that may not be exiting the building properly. That’s a dangerous situation that we don’t want anyone in our community to have to deal with.”

Anyone in an older house with an unreinforced masonry chimney should consider hiring a professional to inspect the flue, Sorensen said.

“You may need to get a qualified professional to come out and inspect those flues, and especially when you get into if the masonry itself is the vent, that’s something that someone whose trained in that needs to come and look at. Also, make sure you’ve got carbon monoxide detectors installed and that they are actually functional and working.”

Modernizing steps taken now could also increase safety after any future earthquakes, he said.

The Great Salt Lake Municipal Services District ( is the service provider for Brighton, five Metro Townships (Copperton Metro Township, Emigration Canyon Metro Township, Kearns Metro Township, Magna Metro Township, and White City Metro Township) and the residents of Unincorporated Salt Lake County.

Residents of those areas who have seen evidence of problems and are fairly certain their buildings have suffered earthquake damage are encouraged to visit the website and fill out forms requesting MSD building inspections.

Obvious signs of problems could include major cracks and tilting walls, Sorensen said. He also advised that completing all requested inspections will take the agency some time.

Emotional aftershock

Magna Mayor pro tem Trish Hull also talked at the news conference, thanking all those who helped.

Hull also talked about how frightening the earthquake probably was to Magna residents and many others along the Wasatch Front.

“You know, today we’ve had a couple of really strong aftershocks out here. One was a 3.4, so things are still kind of scary, so you know talk to your children, make sure your house is still earthquake proof,” Hull said.

“We don’t think a bigger one is coming, but these little aftershocks can do a little bit of damage, and they’re kind of scary, and everybody’s nervous and kind of on edge, we’re kind of anxious.”

Hull suggested letting children talk about their feelings. Children might feel empowered by helping secure household items that could fall in an earthquake, such as wall photos and glass vases on shelves, she said.

“… just let them know that you’re prepared, things are being taken care of. Reassure them. And if you need help, you know, talk to medical professionals, talk to counselors. Everyone is feeling this and it’s OK to feel scared. It’s OK to feel anxious, but we can do something about it.

“So let’s all talk with each other, share our stories, and maybe get a feeling of we’re not alone in this.”


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