Real Estate Story

Dallas earthquake

If tornadoes are not bad enough — and they are really, really bad –— we have to worry now about earthquakes in North Texas. With the recent identification by seismologists of the two-mile fault line near the Trinity River at the center of the activity, many homeowners are wondering about the safety of their houses.

The biggest January (2015) quakes were measured around 3.6 or 3.7, which is relatively minor, but with this ancient subsurface fault reactivated from Irving to West Dallas, nobody can say whether that’s the biggest we’ll see in North Texas.

Dallas earthquake

So I got in touch with two area experts and asked what Dallas-Fort Worth homeowners need to know about how their homes are built, and how much quaking a North Texas house can handle.

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The SMU-led seismic study of North Texas revealed that hydraulic fracturing injection wells most likely activated a dormant fault, leaving the town of Azle all shook up. (map: SMU)

The SMU-led seismic study of North Texas revealed that hydraulic fracturing injection wells most likely activated a dormant fault, leaving the town of Azle all shook up. (map: SMU)

Did you feel that earthquake this morning? We definitely did, and it happened just as I was dropping off my preschooler in Lakewood. The tremor, a 2.7 magnitude quake near Farmers Branch according to the United States Geological Survey map, made me wonder if my son’s school was built to withstand a significant earthquake. It’s something we have to start thinking about as our area is shaken physically and mentally by the growing frequency of seismic activity.

Existing structures are one of the biggest challenges earthquake-prone areas face, as many buildings are constructed without the proper seismic reinforcement. Masonry buildings, ones without steel crossbeam or framing, can pose a significant risk to inhabitants. Considering the recent report from SMU linking our recent spate of earthquakes to hydraulic fracturing and injection wells, should North Texas update its building codes and best practices so that more buildings can withstand the tremors?

If you want to be part of the discussion, AIA Dallas will host a panel from noon to 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Dallas Center for Architecture. The panel discussion will feature Jarod Fancher, Assoc. AIA, Barry Beazley, AIA, Bruce W. Rachel, AIA, and Linda Brown, Assoc. AIA. The group will discuss the science surrounding earthquakes, the history and geology of our region, and seismic building design.

Be sure to register in advance, as it will likely fill up.

 

 

Real Estate Story

United States Seismic Zones

 

With the ongoing earthquakes in North Texas, and recent identification by seismologists of the two-mile fault line near the Trinity River at the center of the activity, many homeowners are wondering about the safety of their houses.

The biggest January quakes were measured around 3.6 or 3.7, which is relatively minor, but with this ancient subsurface fault reactivated from Irving to West Dallas, nobody can say whether that’s the biggest we’ll see in North Texas.

Shakemap 1-6-2015

So I got in touch with two area experts and asked what Dallas-Fort Worth homeowners need to know about how their homes are built, and how much quaking a North Texas house can handle.

(more…)

earthquake wall crack

Reader tells us her wall cracks got worse after Tuesday’s quakes

Tuesday night to Wednesday morning, we had 12 little earthquakes in North Texas.

I definitely felt one, the strongest one said to be a 3.6 on the Richter Scale. My son lives near Palo Alto where they had a fierce 6.0 quake this summer. He usually laughs at my earthquake reports — especially the photo of knocked over lawn furniture saying, “We will rebuild.” But Tuesday night, he wasn’t laughing.

“It’s a rumble,” he agreed, as I tried to describe the sound our Texas quake made as my lights flickered for a second. I was unloading dishes from the dishwasher and had just set down a wine glass. Saw a slight shimmy. The dog was confused. My mother in law was freaking, and I got chills for a minute. My insurance man had been texting me, so I texted him and asked, do we have earthquake coverage?

He is in Lubbock. He thought I was kidding! No, he said, even when he found out about the 3.6. He says he’s never written an earthquake policy in Texas during his life. I turned the question to a few local insurers, including one of our new sponsors, Charles Polansky, a Private Client Advisor at HUB International Personal Insurance here in Dallas. He has been on the phone non-stop with clients since Tuesday.

Nick Klein with HomeTeam Insurance also says his phone has been ringing off the wall, at least 60 clients have contacted him since the rumbles. He thinks a majority will not be adding earthquake insurance, except for those with Travellers and MetLife. Those are two companies that give insureds the option to add earthquake insurance as an endorsement to their existing homeowners policy.

But those deductibles will be high — a minimum of 10 percent.

Nick also writes in California where the earthquake deductibles are 10 percent minimum. Try that on a $3 million dollar home, which is almost an average price.

“The clients we quoted are scared,” said Nick. He also thinks the more and more we have earthquakes in North Texas, the less likely insurance companies will be to add earthquake insurance as optional coverage.

“In Cali, very few companies even offer it,” he says.”People get it from a state pool, like people in hurricane-prone areas.”

I put Charles through the ringer with a Q & A Tuesday night as the earth was rumbling. Jump for the whole thing.

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Shakemap 1-6-2015

Update 9:50 pm:  The neighbor who took the video you are seeing tells me: “I think it is related (to the earthquake), it happened right after the first earthquake, not 2 hours like the city told Robert Wilonsky, it is at the intersection of Hughes and Dykes Way.” He also tells me that whatever caused this break, “the city water and ATOMS gas crews are out there right now, it is still gushing”. I may go up and grab some pics. Stay tuned.

Update: that water main break is near Preston and Churchill Road.

Did you feel those two three tremors today?

Two of them were widely felt, with the first affecting just Irving. The second quake, which was around 3:10 p.m. and centered around the former site of Texas Stadium, was a 3.6 magnitude quake that was felt from East Fort Worth to East Dallas. The third, which happened at around 6:52 p.m., was a 3.6 magnitude aftershock with an epicenter just northeast of Irving. Some homeowners have reported minor damage, including cracks in drywall and gaps in moulding, while 33 City of Dallas water mains are flooding streets.

While some people will claim that these quakes could be naturally occurring due to their proximity to the Balcones Fault, there is a growing body of evidence that human-induced changes to the structure of the earth’s crust is causing these seismic shake-ups in North Texas. We’ve talked previously about fracking and disposal wells, and whether it can affect home values, but with today’s strong quakes, we’re hoping to find out whether or not this phenomenon is a lasting one.

Just this week, researchers from SMU have started placing sensors in the ground in Irving, hoping to root out the cause of the frequent earthquakes that seem centered in the Dallas suburb. According to this report, there have been 18 earthquakes in the Irving area since Nov. 1. The question is, if the cause is found to be manmade, will homeowners insurance cover the damage? And should we all invest in additional earthquake coverage now that I can feel the tremors all the way over in Casa Linda?