How safe are West Texas homes during an earthquake?

Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 8:42 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - Two months ago, a 5.4 magnitude earthquake shook West Texas.

In the immediate aftermath, numerous Texans talked about damage to their homes and possessions and their concerns that something worse was coming.

After the third-largest quake in Texas history struck in mid-December, questions began to pour in, including, ‘How safe is my home’ from West Texas’s newest threat?

“The residents in your area, they can sleep comfortably at night that this is not going to bother them,” said Dr. Mo Ehsani, a civil engineering expert at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Ehsani explained that it’s because of the wood framing that makes up the skeleton of most houses and apartments.

Despite Texas not having extensive earthquake building codes, wood-frame housing works very well to counteract the effects of an earthquake.

“Residential homes, you may get some stuff falling off the shelf or some breaking of window panels. But, in general, the building will not get much,” Dr. Ehsani says.

Hopefully, it won’t be a concern. The Railroad Commission has increased the size of the Gardendale SRA, pushing the disposal of produced oilfield water even further away from Midland.

The greater worry for earthquakes: tall buildings, as seen in the concrete structures involved in the destructive Turkey-Syrian earthquakes over the past several weeks.

Dr. Ehsani says in those cases, it’s about keeping buildings upright.

“The philosophy is that if the building could remain standing, you could avoid loss of life,” he said.

Dr. Ehsani added that Texas falls into the nation’s lowest seismicity region, meaning that building codes are not modified to account for earthquakes. He believes contractors are unlikely to take on the added expense to earthquake-proof larger buildings from man-made quakes.