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.



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.


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?

Azle News Front Page

Photo: WFAA

Several North Texas homeowners, especially those in Azle and near Eagle Mountain Lake, are concerned that expanded shale gas exploration and hydraulic fracturing may be causing the rash of seismic activity that has these communities all shook up.

To address these concerns, the Texas House Subcommittee on Seismic Activity is holding a hearing today at 1 p.m. The committee, headed by State Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton), will listen to expert testimony on the subject. Here’s what the agenda says:

“Study the current conditions surrounding the increased seismic activity in
the Barnett Shale and other areas of the State. Specifically, review the
possibility that increased exploration and disposal well activity could
impact seismic activity. The committee shall review active oil and gas
activity and injection wells in areas experiencing increased seismic

The increased seismic activity has some homeowners worried about their home values, which has many considering updates to their homeowners insurance policies. Earthquakes, much like floods, aren’t usually covered in typical homeowners policies, so if you think your home is at risk for earthquake damage, you might want to read our piece on how fracking-related seismic activity is sending tremors through insurance companies.

Azle News Front Page


Photo: WFAA

As Azle residents stormed a meeting of the Texas Railroad Commission yesterday demanding a moratorium on wastewater injection wells used in hydraulic fracturing (AKA fracking), commissioners gave no indication of halting the practice that homeowners blame for the recent spate of earthquakes in their small Tarrant County town. Here’s a quote from Nicholas Sakelaris’ coverage of the hearing:

Many called for the oil and gas companies to be held accountable for the earthquake damages at their homes.

“Contractors don’t build our homes to withstand earthquakes,” one speaker said.

Another speaker said, “We don’t know if there’s any damage to the actual slab on our foundation because we have carpet. But I’m sure there probably is. Who would have ever thought we would need earthquake insurance?”

It’s frustrating for homeowners, who say that the earthquakes have rattled the town for months, causing damage to foundations, leaving cracks in drywall, creating sinkholes, spooking livestock, and disturbing what is often a peaceful and sleepy suburb near Eagle Mountain Lake.

While the commission decided to bring in a seismologist to study the earthquakes that clock in around a 3 on the Richter scale, there is little else they plan to do, leaving Azle residents to wonder how they can protect themselves against the damage these quakes are causing.

Oil Drilling Misgivings


Photo: AP

According to an article on insurance underwriter website Property Casualty 360, many insurers have been scared away from offering coverage for properties near fracking wells.

One of the most overlooked facts about fracking is that the process has been used in commercial applications since 1949. Over more than six decades, the U.S. has led the way in developing technology to stabilize and streamline the fracking process.

Yet, of the leading insurance companies, only a select few have begun underwriting oil- and gas-drilling-related risks. This slow adoption has led to a shortage of capacity in the oil- and gas-drilling insurance market, strangling investors’ appetites for risk and artificially slowing the rate of growth.

Why aren’t more insurers offering coverage for fracking risks? There’s a range of reasons, but what most insurers do not understand is that fracking is no different than other highly specialized, highly technical industries. Insurers have the opportunity to provide risk management and safety techniques that will help ensure the implementation of best practices and ultimately control claims costs.

If you’re depending on your homeowners policy to take care of your home following an earthquake, think again. Earthquakes, much like floods, aren’t covered. However, because earthquakes tend to be rare in Texas, coverage for earthquake-related damage is a relatively inexpensive add-on to most homeowners policies according to the Texas Department of Insurance. It has yet to be seen, though, if coverage rates in areas near fracking sites such as Azle will be more expensive.

Have you considered buying earthquake coverage for your North Texas home?

Fracking in Mead Colo

Business Insider listed the top nine things that can cripple or kill home values, and fracking (hydraulic fracturing) was listed among foreclosure graveyards, hoarding, sex offenders, and poorly performing schools as one of the top problems that tank home values.

The threat of potentially polluted drinking water scares off buyers from their potential dream home. A study by Duke University and the nonprofit Resources for the Future confirms that fact:

Their study found Pennsylvania homeowners who use local groundwater for drinking lost up to 24 percent of their property value if they are within a mile and a quarter of a shale gas well.

But the news was far better for neighbors who get their water piped in. They saw values rise by nearly 11 percent, likely because of lease money from gas drillers and no worries about polluted water, the researchers found.

The only other real estate eyesore that trashes home values more than fracking is large unsightly billboards, which can sink a home’s appraisal by more than $30,000.

Would you buy a home with a fracking well nearby?