Are We At Risk For Earthquake Damage In Arkansas?

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KFSM) – The state of Oklahoma reported 623 earthquakes stronger than a magnitude 3.0 in 2016, and more than 2,000 in the last three years.

Two of those earthquakes were strong enough to damage homes and businesses in Oklahoma, and be felt in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

A 5.8 magnitude quake hit near Pawnee, Oklahoma, on Sept. 3. It was the strongest in Oklahoma state history, and hundreds of 5NEWS viewers used Facebook to tell us they felt it throughout the area.

University of Arkansas professor Christopher Liner said that earthquake was one of many caused by oil and gas production—specifically when wastewater is injected back into the ground in a process called fracking.

“When you do that injection with too much pressure, too much volume, too quickly, it can reactivate these old faults,” Liner explained.

Liner said it takes about 85 seconds for the seismic waves to make it from where the drilling is happening in Oklahoma to Northwest Arkansas. While the earthquake caused damage near its epicenter in Pawnee, Arkansas is far enough away to avoid major risk.

“It was a bit of a fright, but really unless your house has already got some problems with foundations cracking, sliding downhill, it’s not going to damage your house,” Liner said. “To really get up to the size earthquake that we would have damage to houses, it would have to be up to a magnitude 7 or so.  There’s no indication that these kinds of earthquakes can attain that kind of magnitude.”

While the risk of damage to homes in Arkansas is low, it’s not zero. If an earthquake does damage your home, things like foundation repairs can cost thousands of dollars. That’s why many insurance agents recommend adding an earthquake endorsement to your homeowner’s policy.

“People think just because you have homeowners insurance that you’re covered for anything and everything that could happen to your home, which is just not the case,” said Alex Baldwin, State Farm Insurance agent.

Premiums for earthquake insurance depend on the size and value of your home, but start around $50 a year and could cost more than $500 a year.

Most companies offer policies with a percentage deductible, meaning you’ll pay anywhere from 2 to 20 percent of your home’s value before the coverage kicks in.

“What I always look at is what’s the cost of the insurance versus what do I get?” Baldwin said. “If I don’t buy it, what am I exposed to? For me, even though the deductible might be high, it’s worth setting aside some money every year to know that I’m not going to be out of pocket $30, $40, $50, $60, $70,000 or more if a major earthquake were to damage my home.”

While insurance agents recommend adding coverage, Liner said he believes the risk is quite low.

“If you think about the probability of damage—things from damaging winds, ice storms, tornadoes, far, far exceed any earthquake risk,” Liner said. “The only thing comparable to an earthquake risk in Northwest Arkansas would be maybe asteroids. There’s a small chance, but are you really going to insure for it?”

Arkansas had its own earthquake swarm starting back in 2010, which Liner said was caused by similar oil and gas procedures. Those earthquakes stopped soon after state regulators shut down wastewater disposal wells in the area.