Texas Safer from Earthquakes than Most

February 24, 2017

We’re accustomed to hearing earthquake news from California, so when quakes happen in places like Evansville, IN, which felt a 5.2 temblor last April, or in Texas, where there have been at least six minor quakes in the last few weeks, including a 3.2 magnitude shaker just before midnight on the 30th of October, they tend to get a bit more attention.

Nevertheless, Texas A&M University geosciences professor Fred Chester says that the recent Dallas area quakes were, “�probably not even noticed by the vast majority of the population in the area.” He adds, “Quakes that small might be felt by some people, but most folks are never aware of a quake that size until someone tells them it was officially recorded,” and goes on to say, “The aftershocks can last for a week or more, but the magnitude and frequency of aftershocks becomes smaller and smaller with time.”

Nevertheless, Chester says, Texans don’t need to make a mad dash for earthquake insurance, and the Lone Star State is still one of the USA’s safer areas when it comes to tremors. “Texas seems to get its share of other natural disasters, such as tornadoes and hurricanes, floods and wildfires, but when it comes to earthquakes, we don�t have as much to worry about.”

While Texas does tend to experience larger earthquakes � in the 5 or 6 range � about every fifty to a hundred years, smaller quakes occur more frequently. “In Alpine, in far West Texas , there was a magnitude 5.7 quake in 1995,” Chester notes, and he continues, “There is a distinct zone of active faulting that runs along the Texas-Mexico border from El Paso to Big Bend .”

According to Chester, aside from West Texas and the Panhandle, any earthquake hazard is from faults outside the state, such as the Missouri-Tennessee area. There are numerous active faults southeast of Interstate 35 from Dallas to San Antonio, he says, but these generally only produce small quakes.

Chester recommends the U.S. Geological Survey’s website for further information.

As to the population of Texas, insurance for wind, hail, and flooding is probably much more important than concern over earthquakes.