Magnitude 5.7 earthquake strikes Utah, Largest quake in 28 Years

A 5.7 magnitude earthquake shook the Salt Lake City area Wednesday morning, cutting power to tens of thousands and suspending work at Utah’s public health lab amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

Flights to Salt Lake International Airport were diverted, departures were postponed and terminals and concourses were evacuated so engineers could inspect the facilities, the airport said.

The quake was centered about 10 miles west of Salt Lake City, near the city of Magna, starting at 7:09 a.m. (9:09 a.m. ET), the US Geological Survey said.People in downtown Salt Lake City left buildings and gathered outside after the quake, talking about the shaking, CNN affiliate KSL reported.

“It didn’t feel like a small earthquake at all. I heard things in my kitchen falling,” Michael McCarlie, who lives in an apartment at the City Creek Landing development in the capital, told KSL.

This is the state’s most powerful quake since 1992, when a magnitude 5.9 temblor struck the St. George area, Utah’s Division of Emergency Management said.

Operations at the state’s public health laboratory were halted as the building was assessed for damage, the state Department of Health said.

The state’s coronavirus hotline, which residents may call to request tests and seek information, was down after the quake, Gov. Gary Herbert said on Twitter — though the health department said a temporary information line was available.

Police officers walk pass rubble after an earthquake Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Salt Lake City. A 5.7-magnitude earthquake has shaken Salt Lake City area and it knocked out power to some homes and brought the city’s light rail system to a halt. The U.S. Geological Survey says the epicenter was just southwest of the city and was likely felt by an estimated 2.8 million people. Residents felt their homes shake for 10 to 15 seconds. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Department of Health said its lab is being assessed for damage, and testing will resume when the building is “determined to be safe.

“”There were no samples being tested at the time of the earthquake,” the department said in a media advisory posted on Twitter. “Additionally, no samples or laboratory equipment were damaged during the earthquake.

“Commercial labs in the state are working and still processing Covid-19 tests, the department said.

By the early afternoon there were about 10,000 customers without power, down from 73,000 immediately after the quake, Rocky Mountain Power reported.

“Please stay away from the downtown area while crews assess damage,” Herbert said. “Unless you work in public safety, or are an essential employee, remain at home or telework.

“The quake comes as Utah residents, like people across the world, are adjusting to changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic, including canceling schools and limiting mass gatherings.

“I know the last thing we need right now is an earthquake, but here we are, and it sounds like aftershocks are likely,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said on Twitter.

At the city’s iconic Mormon temple, the quake dislodged the trumpet of the angel statue atop its highest spire, video from KSL showed.

“The trumpet on the Angel Moroni statue fell off, and there is minor displacement of some of the temple’s smaller spire stones,” said Daniel Woodruff, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Aerial photos show the fallen trumpet appeared to have landed on the roof of the temple near the base of its spires.

School districts in the area have been offering grab-and-go lunch pickup programs during the coronavirus break, but some districts canceled those programs Wednesday because of the earthquake, CNN affiliate KTVX reported.