Utah Danger From Quakes Not as Much as Gulf Danger From Hurricanes

Utah Danger From Quakes Not as Much as Gulf Danger From Hurricanes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- As hurricanes have been the long-recognized threat to the Gulf states, a big earthquake is the major disaster Utah is predicted eventually to encounter.

But it's unlikely that a magnitude 7.5 earthquake, the maximum that experts predict for Utah, would create the kind of widespread destruction brought to Gulf states by Hurricane Katrina.

With a 7.5 earthquake there probably would be isolated pockets of destruction, said Walter Arabasz, director of the University of Utah's seismograph stations. "We wouldn't expect every building to be destroyed."

Still, a 7-plus earthquake in Utah could cause almost 1,900 deaths and $27 billion in economic losses, said Bob Carey, said state earthquake emergency program manager.

The main difference between the destruction from Katrina and that from a massive earthquake is the pervasive damage caused by water with Katrina, Carey said.

In an earthquake, people can have fairly immediate access to damaged areas, he said.

On the other hand, the problem with an earthquake is that "you can't see it coming."

Arabasz said people can prepare in small ways for an earthquake by making sure that there aren't heavy items on walls or over beds that can fall, by securing water heaters and by knowing where the gas shut-off valve is.

Utahns long have been advised to have a 72-hour emergency kit, and the experiences with Katrina have many thinking 72 hours isn't long enough.

Carlin Kenner, night manager at General Army Navy Outdoor, said people haven't rushed the Salt Lake store, but a run on emergency preparedness goods is expected.

"It takes a couple of days to trigger it in people's minds," she said.

Traffic has been steady at the Emergency Essentials outlet store in Orem, one employee said, and online and nationwide sales have picked up.

"People from out of state, here for other business, come in to get 72-hour kits all the time," he said.

Kits containing various essentials to carry a person at least three days are the most popular way to prepare for disaster. They cost anywhere from $10 to $300. However, there are items that can be collected from around the house that would be deemed essential in case of emergency.

Michael Stever, Salt Lake City emergency program manager, advises people to have at least a half-tank of gas in every car at all times.

He also recommends people have some cash on hand, a battery-operated flashlight and radio, first-aid kits and sanitation supplies, are also essential.

"Seventy-two hours is good, but 10 days is better," Stever said.

Emergency agencies also are taking another look at their preparations.

"It's been a real eye-opener," said Jim Buchanan, Brigham City emergency services director. "Every emergency manager and elected official should look at what's going on."

The disaster has brought up things that Buchanan never considered during training and exercises.

"Where would I put 17,000 people when none of those people have a place to go?" he said.

Buchanan said he will be making some changes and additions to his emergency plan, including making sure there is enough reserve gasoline to get emergency personnel through the disaster. Those working for the Meals on Wheels program should also have reserve gasoline.

Harrisville Mayor Fred Oates was stranded at a Marriott hotel in New Orleans for several days after the hurricane hit. He doesn't want Utahns to learn the lesson the hard way.

"As citizens of Utah, I certainly wouldn't rely on the federal government emergency services, at least for two or three days after what happens, so we need to be prepared," he said.

Oates has always kept a 24-hour kit in his home, but said he is going to expand that -- and not just to 48 or 72 hours.

"I'm thinking of weeks."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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