Earthquake Disaster Scenarios for north Texas

518! That’s the number of earthquakes measuring 3.0 or higher in magnitude which have occurred in Oklahoma since the start of this year. A 5.0 magnitude quake struck near Cushing last week and a 5.8 magnitude tremor struck in September. Luckily it’s been almost a year since one occurred in North Texas. What’s interesting to think about is what would happen across North Texas if a quake with a magnitude of 5.8 struck here!

The Dallas Morning News published the results of a study conducted by FEMA of what would happen in North Texas if earthquakes of different sizes struck here. To provide a frame of reference for their study, they examined two different magnitudes, 4.8 and 5.6. Here’s what FEMA estimates will happen:

4.8 Magnitude: The result of a 4.8 magnitude earthquake occurring along one of the fault lines in the D/FW area includes:

  • Small possibility for minor injuries
  • Approximately 2,600 buildings will experience slight damage
  • 170 building will experience moderate damage

Property and infrastructure damage estimates for Dallas and area counties are:

  • Dallas $2.3 billion
  • Tarrant $104 million
  • Collin $44 million
  • Denton $37 million
  • All other areas $2 million

5.6 Magnitude: The numbers go sharply up as the magnitude increases with northwest and west Dallas bearing the brunt of such an earthquake.

  • Injuries likely and fatalities a possibility
  • 80,000 buildings with at least slight damage
  • 700 building with more serious damage
  • 290 area bridges experiencing more than slight damage
  • Possibility of levees and dams collapsing

Damage estimates for area counties is:

  • Dallas $9.6 billion in damage to property and critical infrastructure
  • Tarrant $1 billion
  • Collin $480 million
  • Denton $422 million
  • All other areas $46 million

There are several faults researchers have discovered since the rash of small quakes struck north Texas including the Airport Fault, County Line Fault, Irving fault, and Big D fault. Each of these fault lines run roughly south to north or northeast from the west side of D/FW International Airport to just west of downtown Dallas through Love Field.

Neither area officials, FEMA, nor the US Geological Survey know what the likelihood is of a 5.6 or greater magnitude quake occurring in the D/FW area. The study was designed to determine what the worst-case scenario looks like to help everyone determine how to best respond should a major quake strike the area.

The study raises some interesting questions worth discussing:

  • Should building codes change for new commercial and residential construction to incorporate designs and techniques making them earthquake tolerant?
  • Should homeowners and commercial property owners purchase earthquake insurance?
  • What response plans should various agencies have in place?

I don’t think anyone needs to panic, however we should be closely watching how Oklahoma is responding to these challenges and learning from them. It would be very foolish to think it couldn’t happen here? What do you think? Share your thoughts, questions, and suggestions with me on my Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn pages. I’d love to hear from you!

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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