Texas Earthquakes! Seriously?


“Move to Texas ‘yall, we never get earthquakes.” said the enthusiastic Real Estate Agent to the young, naive couple from California.  (Yeeee haw!  Wait ‘til you see our springtime storms.)

earthquake IRVING TX

The first eleven days of January, 2015 we got 17 earthquakes here in the Dallas area. Seismologists are focusing on all thecowboy stadium ruckus near and around the old Texas Stadium’s sacred site in Irving where the Cowboys used to play their games.  That stadium was an engineering marvel back in its day.  It had a retractable roof so that God could watch His favorite sports team.

tom landryNo one yet knows what’s causing all these minor quakes (and may never know), but a lot of Detroit folks – that are die-hard Lions fans – believe it’s the devil coming to get Jerry Jones’ soul because of the recent Cowboys questionable win over Detroit.  Lion’s fans believe ‘ol Jerry paid the officials off.  I don’t believe that.  I believe it was God’s retribution for Jones firing Coach Tom Landry the way he did.

Regardless of what they or I believe, Southern Methodist University of Dallas is to install 22 more seismographs all around the earthquaked area so they can get to the bottom of it or so they hope.  They stress that it’s going to take time to learn more about the quakes so as to confirm and refine the location of the quakes and define the faults in the area. When that happens they’ll be in a better position to come up with some potential causes of the quakes. (They’re consulting with Texas A&M because its the right thing to do, besides, they play much better football.)

The 12 Quakers

a texas earthquake4The first of the 12 of 17 quakes ranged in magnitude from 1.6 to 3.6, which by California standards are laughable. Some of the quakes were felt in several a texas earthquake2cities across Dallas-Ft. Worth with no reports of significant damage or injuries.  (However, a few lawn chairs were reported to have toppled and some cats went missing.)

The 3.6 quake is the strongest to hit Irving in recent months. Since early September, more than 25 quakes have rattled Irving around State Highways 114 and 183, near the old Texas stadium land and a gas well site.  (And an old abandoned Porta-Potty.)

a texas earthquake 6Geologists say earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 to 3.0 are generally the smallest felt by human beings. The largest earthquake ever recorded in Texas was near the extremely small town of Valentine in far southwest Texas on August 16, 1931 – it was 5.8 in magnitude which caused tombstones in a local cemetery to be rotated as well as all their buildings except wood-frame houses to be damaged severely as were all the brick chimneys toppled or damaged. Their schoolhouse, which consisted of one section of concrete blocks and another section of bricks, was damaged so badly that it had to be rebuilt. (Ohhhh the humanity!) The earthquake was also felt as far away as in parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, and in Chihauhua and Coahuila, Mexico. (No Valentine’s for ‘yall!)

pecan lodgeFor those of us living in the North Central Texas area we absolutely don’t know if there will be a larger pecan lodge2earthquake that could tragically damage our world’s best Barbecue Restaurants, but we can’t rule out that possibility. Studies of earthquakes around the world for decades have shown that the more small earthquakes that you have in an area, the more likely you’re to have a larger earthquake. But “experts” tell us it’s way too early to say how likely, but they do say that there’s a remote possibility for a larger earthquake and people should take general precautions.  (Hmmm… like what?  Move to California?  Heaven forbid.)

Dozens of small earthquakes have hit parts of North Texas in recent years, including several in and near Azle, which is northwest of Fort Worth.   (What in the world is an Azle?)

Natural gas drilling the cause?

dumb carSome blame these swarms of North Texas earthquakes on natural gas well drilling – and the use of disposal wells to store waste-water from a texas earthquake3the drilling. There’s been a gas drilling boom in the Barnett Shale, a massive geological formation that covers about 20 North Texas counties. (I have a sneaky suspicion that those “some who blame” are anti-gas and oil folks who believe we should be driving cars with long extension cords or something really, really small and really silly.)

Irving also sits on the Balcones Fault, which extends from Del Rio in southwest Texas to the Dallas area.

three stoogesThe Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator, hired a seismologist last year. Commission members have adopted tighter disposal well rules.

The commission said this week it’s not investigating the Irving quakes. They said, “Specifically, there are no disposal wells in Dallas County, and there is only one natural gas well in the vicinity, and it is an inactive well.”  (Well I’m personally relieved that these wise guys are going to the bottom of this.)  (No story here, move on please.)

frackingUnited States Geological Survey posted this on its website about earthquakes in central and eastern North America:  “As is the case elsewhere in the world, there is evidence that some central and eastern North America earthquakes have been triggered or caused by human activities that have altered the stress conditions in earth’s crust sufficiently to induce faulting. Activities that have induced felt earthquakes in some geologic environments have included impoundment of water behind dams, injection of fluid into the earth’s crust, extraction of fluid or gas, and removal of rock in mining or quarrying operations. In much of eastern and central North America, the number of earthquakes suspected of having been induced is much smaller than the number of natural earthquakes, but in some regions, such as the south-central states of the U.S., a significant majority of recent earthquakes are thought by many seismologists to have been human-induced. (Say what?)

Fracking? In your dreams.

As of now, there’s no 100% definitive scientific connection between this latest swarm of earthquakes and fracking activity, but the United a texas earthquake7States Geologic Survey noted in a statement on our North Central Texas swarm, “Activities that have induced felt earthquakes in some geologic environments have included impoundment of water behind dams, injection of fluid into the earth’s crust, extraction of fluid or gas, and removal of rock in mining or quarrying operations.”  (And of course let’s not forget those big ‘ol catfish out of Lake Ray Hubbard.)

mobile exxonWorth noting: This cluster of quakes is taking place almost directly beneath the Exxon-Mobile world headquarters, which is located in Irving. The company’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, joined a lawsuit last year to prevent a water tower used in the fracking process from being built near his 83-acre horse ranch in a swanky suburban Dallas enclave.  (Hmmmm… wonder if he’s talking to Jerry?  Wonder if the devil is coming for Rex, too?)

Earthquake school drills

Back in Irving, school district spokeswoman Lesley Weaver at first thought someone bumped into a wall in the office Tuesday a texas earthquake5afternoon. (Must’ve been a stray longhorn.)

“We could feel something in our administration building,” Weaver said. “I would describe it as a slight shaking and we all said ‘What is that?’ Someone who works here in our office and lives in Irving as well said: ‘That’s an earthquake.’”  (Must’ve been an experienced California transplant.)

On Wednesday, Irving students participated in earthquake drills. (Drop! Cover! Hold On! Send Text Messages to the One Next to You that its an Earthquake!)

bumping into a wall“We have earthquake procedures in place and are continuing to educate our students and staff on the proper actions to take during and after earthquakes,” Weaver said.   (Takes a village doesn’t it, ‘yall?)

Folks I personally heard from – those who experienced the earth quaking – thought it was an earthquake or somebody bumping into a wall.  I did not believe their earthquake stories, but totally bought into the person(s) bumping into a wall stories… much more believable.

Officials inspect roads, bridges and trains

Crews inspected roads, bridges and trains – no damage was reported.

Morgan Lyons with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit said that the light-rail Orange Line through Irving was unfazed by the shaking. “Our dart planosystem was built to withstand certainly seismic activity of this magnitude,” Lyons says. “We do daily inspections. The folks who do the inspections are certainly aware of what’s going on and are paying close attention for anything that might be unusual as a result of the recent seismic activity.” (How?)

On the roads, Tony Hartzel with the Texas Department of Transportation says crews doing their regular daily inspection routes haven’t found any quake damage. He’s confident in the strength and stability of Texas bridges even though state construction standards don’t even mention earthquakes. (Why should they? Earthquakes have yet to be invented in Texas.)  “There’s not a specific standard, but the bridges are definitely built to withstand stresses, such as these earthquakes,” Hartzel says.   (And mostly cattle stampedes.)

The End

Okay folks, there it is… the latest earthquake news from THE greatest state in the Union – Texas.  Nothing to report here, move along please.  But come springtime… 4-3-12 texas tornadothings can get real crazy around here with “earthquakes in the sky.”  Stay tuned for the reports and in the meantime enjoy your barbecue.  Now where’d those cats go?

Earthquake Trivia with Comments

  • In Japan mythology, a giant catfish called Namazu is responsible for earthquakes. Here in Texas it’s a giant armadillo named Faulty.
  • The Indian Ocean earthquake in 2004 generated enough energy to power all the homes and businesses in the United States for three days. Or Texas for about a minute, two tops.
  • An average earthquake lasts around a minute.  Here in Texas it’s year round caused by line dancing.
  • Aftershocks occur because the displaced fault line and crust are adjusting to the effects of the main earthquake. Larger earthquakes can have aftershocks that last for years especially if Dallas wins the Super Bowl… not! (Go Packers!).
  • Parkfield, California, is known as “The Earthquake Capital of the World” and has a bridge that spans two tectonic plates.  Dallas is working overtime to dethrone Parkfield because everything has to be bigger and better in Texas.
  • Earthquakes are mostly caused by geological faults, but they can also be caused by landslides, nuclear testing, mine tests, and volcanic activity… or the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl or the Rangers winning the World Series or the Stars winning the Stanley Cup or the Mavericks winning something… bless Mark Cuban’s heart.
  • The “focus” or “hypocenter” is the earthquake’s initial point of rupture. Its “epicenter” is the point at ground level above the hypocenter. Here in Texas its a great cut of barbecue that’ll rupture yo face into a silly smile.
  • In ancient Greece, people believed that the god of the sea, Poseidon, caused earthquakes. When he was angry, Poseidon would strike the ground with his trident and set off an earthquake. His unpredictable, violent behavior earned him the nickname “Earth-Shaker.” Here in Texas its a Texas Ranger lawman with a bur in his saddle.
  • More earthquakes happen in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere. Duh! They can have ’em.
  • The shape of a pagoda is known for resisting damage from earthquakes. Nope, it’s the shape of an oil rig.
  • The term “tectonic” is related to the word “texture” and is from the Greek tektonikos which means “pertaining to building,” from the Proto-Indo-European base *tek, “to make.”  Or from the Texan colloquialism of “‘Yall better make to run.”
  • Scientists developed the theory of plate tectonics in the mid-twentieth century.  At the same time Texans developed the science of the perfect brisket.
  • There are four types of a fault: normal, reverse, thrust, and strike-up.  And of course they forgot “your.”
  • A quake is considered major when it registers more than 7.0 on the moment magnitude scale. A magnitude of 3.0 or lower is nearly imperceptible.  So, what’s with all that “somebody’s bumping into the walls” reports here in Dallas?
  • The 1906 earthquake in California was before the Richter scale, but scientists estimate it would rank as a 7.8. As much as 90% of the damage in San Francisco was from fires caused by cracked gas pipes. San Francisco burned for three days and nights. Did the 49er’s win a game?
  • The 1906 California earthquake was one of the first major disasters to be recorded by photography. The day the selfie was invented.
  • Nearly 2,000 years ago, a Chinese astronomer named Zhang Heng (A.D. 78-139) invented the world’s first earthquake detector. It could detect earthquakes more than 370 miles (600 km) away.  He’d just come back from Texas after experiencing his first barbecue beans campfire eating contest when the idea struck him… or more than likely snuck up on him.
  • Nearly 80% of Earth’s largest earthquakes occur near the “Ring of Fire,” which is a horseshoe-shaped region in the Pacific Ocean where many tectonic plates meet. The second-most earthquake-prone area is a region called the Alpide Belt, which includes countries such as Turkey,India, and Pakistan.  Obviously whoever came up with those findings hasn’t been to Pecan Lodge Barbecue in Dallas when they have the barbecue ready.  Oh wait! That’s what Johnny Cash was singing about when he fell into something!  Now I get it.
  • Earthquakes can set off volcanoes, as was the case in the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption and the Mount Etna eruption in 2002.  No volcanoes here in Texas, nothing to see, move along please. Ohhh, wait, never mind… my bad, they’re called asphalt roads in August.
  • The 853-foot (260-meter) high TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco has been designed to withstand strong earthquakes and a catastrophic 49er’s win.  Too bad their design will never be tested by the latter.
  • Earthquakes occur only in the Earth’s crust. Deep earthquakes originate in crust that is sliding down beneath another tectonic plate. The most devastating earthquakes are those that are strong and shallow with the focus point less than 20 miles (32 km) underground and that occur in highly populated areas.  Of Texas cattle?  You mean to tell me that a cattle stampede causes earthquakes? Hey ‘yall in Fort Worth keep them downtown cattle drives to a minimum would ya?
  • Scientists think that animals may sense weak tremors before a quake. Other scientists think that animals may sense electrical signals set off by the shifting of underground rocks. That’s why we Texans always wear a horny toad on a string around our neck.
  • The ancient Greeks believed that earthquakes were caused by winds rushing out from caves inside Earth.  Again… wrong!  Those strong winds are caused by cowboys enjoying barbecue beans around a campfire.  Haven’t yall ever seen “Blazing Saddles“?  True story!
  • The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake lasted nearly 10 minutes—the longest on record.  Again, wrong!  We had one last 13 minutes after the Cowboys beat Detroit.
  • Englishman John Milne invented the seismograph in 1880.  He was with that Zhang Heng Chinese fellow… at the campfire and they weren’t sippin’ tea.
  • American scientist Charles Richter invented the Richter scale in 1935.  Same deal, but later that night.
  • There are about 1,300,000 earthquakes per year (two per day) with magnitudes of 2.9 or lower.  90% of ’em were here recently in Texas during the lifespan of two days.
  • Approximately one earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 or higher occurs per year.  Bring it! We need another fishin’ lake here in the Metroplex.
  • The largest earthquake in the U.S. on record was a 9.2 quake that occurred in Alaska in 1964.  Alaska? That’s a county in northern Texas.
  • The speed of the fastest seismic wave is 225 miles (360 kilometers) per hour.  Nope it was just Bubba running for milk when he got a mouth full of too much habanero chili popcorn.
  • Before an earthquake, ponds and canals may give off a strange smell. This is caused by the release of gases underground. The temperature of ground water can also become warmer.  Sounds like what happened to that outhouse the cowpokes use on the Diamond R Ranch.
  • An earthquake on the moon is called a moonquake. Moonquakes are normally weaker than earthquakes. Texasquakes shake the universe.
  • The first recorded earthquake in California was in 1769 by Gaspar de Portola, an explorer and Spanish military officer.  He went on to open up the first amusement park in California that featured the “Shaker.”
  • The San Andreas Fault is moving about 2 inches a year, about the same rate fingernails grow. At this rate, San Francisco and Los Angeles will be next to each other in 15 million years… about the same time the Oakland Raiders might win more than six games.
  • The most earthquake-prone state is Alaska.  And Alaska is the most prone to have a grizzly bear pop out of nowhere and wish you a happy mess-in-your-pants day.
  • The earliest recorded earthquake is from 1831 B.C. in the Shandong province in China.  This was due to the aftershocks of a Texas-Oklahoma Cotton Bowl halftime show generated by the marching bands.
  • Aristotle was the first to note that soft ground shakes more than hard ground.  Aristotle was a genius.  He also loved Texas… and chicken fried steaks with cream gravy… and iced tea… and banana pudding… and fried okra… and jalapenos.
  • Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone nations in the world. Thousands of earthquakes occur in Japan every year, but most of them are very weak.  It’s mainly due to that raw fish they eat.
  • In 2006, geologists found three new faults in northern California. The faults run under small towns and vineyards in Mendocino County. Texas scientists helped them tap into those faults as a way of pressing more grapes.
  • The San Andres is one of the longest fault zones in the world. It is a strike-slip fault and runs over 800 miles (1,280 km) from San Francisco through southern California to Mexico. The San Andres fault is not just one fault but it is actually made up of many faults.  And who’s fault is that?
  • Japan’s 9.0 earthquake in 2011 not only moved the island closer to the United States, it also shifted the planet’s axis by 6.5 inches. Those folks love Texas that much? Bless their hearts.
  • Japan’s massive 2011 earthquake shifted the earth’s mass toward the center, causing the planet to spin faster and shortening the day by 1.6 microseconds. The 2004 Sumatra quake shorted the day by 6.8 microseconds.  So that’s how Day Light Savings Time came to be?


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