Destructive Earthquakes in El Paso

Destructive Earthquakes in El Paso
MGN Online
Weather Talk

POSTED: Sunday, February 9, 2014 - 4:08pm

UPDATED: Sunday, February 9, 2014 - 4:09pm

El Paso sits close to the Rio Grande Rift.

This is a thinning in the Earth's surface caused by stretching the surface through geological stress. It was formed millions of years ago, and runs south to north from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico to Leadville, Colorado and perhaps even further north.

The rift continues to widen today, although very slowly, and in part this is what sometimes produces those small earthquakes.

On the topic on Natural Hazards, I thought it would be nice to research a little bit more in depth about other disasters that our area is hit with.

After confirming yesterday that tornadoes are in fact a natural phenomenon that occur in the Sun City by many Facebook followers, I thought it would be nice to look into what kind of earthquakes we have been hit with.

So fact number one is Earthquakes do happen in Texas.

In fact, there are four regions within Texas that have experienced historical earthquakes. El Paso is one of them. Data shows that the two out of four regions in Texas, near El Paso and in the Panhandle, should expect earthquakes with magnitudes of about 5.5-6.0 to occur every 50-100 years.

On the Richter scale, an earthquake is usually considered much more serious, and is felt by most people, once it hits about 5.0.

Each number of the Richter scale is equal to an increase in the magnitude of an earthquake, by ten. 

For example, an earthquake measuring 6.0 on this scale has a magnitude ten times greater than a 5.0 quake.

One whole number increase also means that about 31 times more energy was released during a quake.

In south-central Texas the hazard is generally low, but residents should be aware that small earthquakes can occur there, including some which are triggered by oil or gas production.

In El Paso, we experienced an earth quake two years ago and almost every news station covered it. For those of you who don't remember,
the quake happened in March of 2012.

The earthquake was recorded to be of a 2.5-magnitude, with an epicenter about 8 miles from El Paso.

Residents near George Dieter Drive on the far East Side reported a shaking at about the same time the U.S. Geological Service stated the temblor took place.

A 2.5 earthquake isn't too intense. It basically means these temblors are not felt, although those at the higher end may be, and it may cause very minor damage.

Between 1847 and 1994 there were more than 110 recorded earthquakes of magnitude three or greater in Texas.

Note: No Texas earthquake has exceeded a magnitude of 6.0, and most have been fairly small and caused little or no damage.

On a Richter scale, a 6 magnitude is classified as strong and can cause significant damage, especially in populated areas.

Only one earthquake in Western Texas has caused a death. And the earthquake took place in Juarez, Mexico.

On March 7, 1923, in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, a few kilometers from the quake's epicenter, an adobe house collapsed and suffocated the man inside.

The largest earthquake in Texas history had a magnitude of about 6.0 and occurred on 16 August 1931 near the town of Valentine, about 130 miles southeast of El Paso.

It caused severe damage to adobe and brick structures in Valentine, and was felt by Texans as far away as Dallas.

Texas' second largest earthquake occurred on 14 April 1995, also in west Texas. It had a magnitude of 5.8, and was felt in Austin.

Verdict: Although earthquakes are not uncommon in El Paso, the chances of experiencing a strong earth quake in Texas is not very likely.

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