The largest earthquake to hit Utah in nearly 28 years was felt in communities around Box Elder County last week, although no major damage or injuries were reported.
At about 7 a.m. Wednesday, March 18, a magnitude 5.7 quake centered just southwest of Salt Lake City caused significant damage to buildings in the city and nearby. Residents of Box Elder County were awakened by shaking that reached 80 miles or more away from the epicenter.
Mark Millett, emergency manager for Box Elder County, said there were no reports of injuries or property damage in the county.
Residents from Brigham City to Portage said they felt the shaking.
“Standing in my kitchen in Elwood, it felt like a wave,” wrote Becky Price in response to a Facebook post.
With much of normal life at a screeching halt to combat the coronavirus, millions of people in Utah are hunkered down in the safety of their homes. But even that protection felt fragile as the earthquake strong enough to shut down the airport tore through the Salt Lake City area.
Though no one was hurt, the earthquake chipped away at an already thin sense of security. Michelle Daneri, 30, emerged from her apartment for the first time in days to search for her frightened cat and questioned whether she can still rely on one of her last safe spaces.
“I hope there isn’t lasting damage, because if I had to move at a time like this I don’t know what I’d do,” she said. Others reported books thrown from shelves, swinging chandeliers and fallen pottery.
About 100 other people were driven from buildings and homes by damage near the epicenter in Magna, a working-class suburb between the airport and Great Salt Lake west of the capital city. Tens of thousands more lost power after the state’s largest quake in nearly three decades.
A chemical plume was released at a nearby copper mine, and airplane passengers were temporarily stranded. Bricks showered onto sidewalks. The temblor shook the trumpet from the hand of a golden angel statute atop the iconic Salt Lake Temple of the state’s predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
About 2.8 million people felt the initial shaking that lasted up to 15 seconds, some running outside in panic, and aftershocks continued through the day. The effects rippled into neighboring Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada.
The airport was evacuated, a process made easier with the number of passengers down nearly 70% because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions, executive director Bill Wyatt said. The runways weren’t damaged and flights resumed by late afternoon, after crews cleaned up a busted water main.
Crews also worked to fix road damage and natural gas leaks at state buildings.
The coronavirus formed the backdrop to the earthquake response, as testing and a state hotline were interrupted and authorities pleaded with people to disclose any symptoms so crews could don protective gear when they went to help.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.