Thursday, March 5, 2015

1894: Ogden’s first recorded earthquake

               --From the book, "History of Ogden, Utah in Old Post Cards," by D. Boyd Crawford.

By Lynn Arave

THE Ogden area suffered in 1894 what was likely the first recorded earthquake since the pioneer settlers had arrived.
“Earthquake” was the simple headline in the Standard-Examiner the afternoon after the quake, on July 18, 1894.
At the tithing office the shock was felt quite strong, some light articles being tipped from the shelves,” The Standard reported. “At the Reed Hotel the shock was also quite strong. At the county court house the people rushed out of their offices in amazement. At the Utah Loan & Trust building the walls cracked like a pistol shot. In A. R. Heywood's office the lamp swayed back and forth from the shock. In other parts of town the shock produced considerable alarm.”
Seismologists later estimated that was a 5.0 quake.
Here’s a listing of other significant Ogden area earthquakes:
-There was also a small quake in Ogden in 1907 that University of Utah instruments measured, but was not felt by humans.
-Next, on April 8, 1914, “Earthquake caused mild excitement in this city,” was the headline in the Standard. “Shock felt as far north at Plain City and south to Farmington – Dishes rattle and rumbling noise is heard – Huntsville in the seismic zone – Rock slide occurs in South Fork Canyon.”
The shock lasted several seconds, but was not felt in Salt Lake City. There were no estimates for that quake intensity.
-Then, just over a month afterward, another quake, a strong one – with two jolts, three minutes apart -- struck Ogden on May 13, 1914:
“Earthquake shocks cause excitement throughout the city,” was the Standard headline that day.
“Near panic in many of the schools when buildings begin to fall – Children scream – Windows broken and plaster falls – Man with an incubator loses his eggs – Quake felt in Salt Lake,” the story continued.
Structurally, there was no major damage and quake was at  a 5.5-6.0 intensity.
(-Ironically, also on an April 8, but in 1911, a Standard headline had stated: “Earthquake to swallow Zion.” This story focused on a Utah Academy of Science professor who said two massive quakes had struck the Wasatch Front in prehistoric times, causing the ground to sink 20 to 50 feet in places.)
-“Earthquakes shake mountain area,” was a March 12, 1934 headline in the Standard. “Death comes to Ogden woman as house trembles; Much Excitement But Little Damage Follows Series Of Temblors; Buildings Sway, Light Fixtures Swing And Some Plaster Loosened,” the story continued.
This Hansel Valley quake, centered in Box Elder County, was estimated at 6.6 intensity. Railroad cars at the Ogden yard also shook violently and many clocks stopped.

                         Ogden's old City and County Building.

-The Aug. 17,1959 Yellowstone Earthquake (7.1 intensity) was also felt in the Ogden area.
-And, the Pocatello Valley Quake (6.0 intensity) of March 27, 1975 was felt in Weber County and most of the Top of Utah.

-BONUS MATERIAL NOT IN THE NEWSPAPER ACCOUNT: A magnitude 6.9 quake struck the San Francisco Bay area on the afternoon of Oct. 17, 1989, causing $5 billion in damages and killing 67 people. 
This was often called the World Series quake, since it struck during the pre-game of that event.
I was likely the ONLY person in the Intermountain area who saw effects of that quake (outside of anyone looking at a seismograph) -- despite the fact I was at least 600 air miles away in Layton, Utah.
What happened was that was the only season I kept my in-ground, 18,600-gallon swimming pool heated and open that late in the season.
Being a sunny and calm day, my pool was uncovered when the quake struck in San Francisco. I'm in the kitchen and hear splashing. I look out the window to the pool and see 3 to 4 foot waves splashing over the sides of the cement deck. Curious, because it is not windy and no one is in or around the pool.
After 20-30 seconds, the waves just stop. Humans felt nothing in Utah from this California quake.
About 20 minutes later, I turn the evening news on and realize there had to be a connection with what I saw happen strangely in my pool and that quake.
Weeks later, I talked to a Utah Seismologist and he said the fact my pool was uncovered and there was no wind meant the water had surface tension. Those seismic waves, though not felt by humans, traveled the 600 or so miles and broke that surface tension, getting the water to move like a bowl of Jello shaking. 
In essence, I had a crude earthquake detector that day and it worked.

(-Originally published on-line and in print in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on March 5-6, 2015, by Lynn Arave.)

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at:  

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