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A proposed research center would help Utah better prepare for big earthquakes


In March of 2020, Utah started to shake. The earthquake hit early in the morning along the Wasatch Front. Director of the University Of Utah Seismograph Stations Keith Koper said the quake caused millions of dollars worth of damages, but that’s only a taste of what’s to come.

“A magnitude seven is much stronger,” Koper said. “Anywhere from, you know, 50 to 90 times more energy that could be released than what we felt in Magna.”


Koper said magnitude seven earthquakes are rare, but they are bound to happen. He said an earthquake that large could cause thousands of casualties and billions of dollars worth of damages. 


“Utah is a state that just has a big building stock of these unreinforced masonry structures and what we say, you know, in seismology and earthquake sciences, it's not earthquakes that kill people. It's the buildings that kill people,” Koper said.


Utah State University civil engineering professor Brady Cox said Utah is the only seismically hazardous state without an Earthquake Engineering Research Center. 


“There's certain parts of our infrastructure that aren't engineered very well, in regards to seismic issues, and those happen to be in people's homes,” Cox said.


Cox has proposed a research center be built at Utah State. He said while the center will be in Logan, he wants to draw on knowledge from experts all over Utah. 


The center would focus on identifying structures most susceptible to damage, and improving on those designs. He said getting started is the first step.


“We just need to make sure that we start incrementally improving and not just get overwhelmed and do nothing,” Cox said. “Because that would be the worst thing that we can do.”