Texas Earthquakes: Tremors in the Past, Present, and Future

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Though not as prevalent as in California, Texas earthquakes have plagued the state over various times in history. Though most major earthquakes remain in Texas’ past, even today, the earth still trembles in parts of the state. Knowing your chances of feeling a tremor and what to do in the event of one will help you to be ready if you experience one.

How Earthquakes Happen

Texas Earthquakes Often Occur Along Fault Lines

Photo: Flickr/Lisa Andres

Earthquakes occur from a rapid slippage of earth on either side of fault lines. The land may move down along the fault or push parallel to the fault. Generally, for this to happen, the fault itself needs to be under stress. The movement during the earthquake alleviates the stress on the fault for a while, until it builds up and the next earthquake occurs.

Texas Geology

Fault zones along the edge of the Texas Hill Country

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Texas has a highly dynamic geology that includes the rise and fall of mountain ranges over the course of millions of years. The Texas Hill Country lies beneath an ancient mountain range that once included active volcanoes. Perhaps the most obvious piece of Texas geology that attests to earthquakes in the state is the system of fault lines that run from northeast to southwest along the eastern boundary of the Hill Country. The most well-known of these is the Balcones Fault. To the west, the land is uplifted, while the Gulf Coast sinks to the east. This fault, though it experienced ancient earthquakes, is considered geologically inactive today. Other faults exist near El Paso, Dallas, and even in Houston. Though the majority of these faults have not shown recent activity beyond slow slippage, some shaking near the Dallas area and El Paso have prompted scientists to take another look at the faults in these areas to see if they are under stress and pose a hazard of future earthquakes.

Past Texas Earthquakes

El Paso saw the only earthquake death in nearby Ciudad Juarez in 1923
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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