Keep calm over Irving earthquakes

Photo by Matt Katzenberger

North Texans are all too familiar with natural events capable of inflicting millions of dollars in damages. Tornadoes have wreaked havoc on our cities and neighborhoods. Powerful thunderstorms, hail and winds have downed power lines, uprooted trees and destroyed rooftops and cars. Extreme and prolonged drought has caused foundations to shift and homes to crack apart. Sadly, many of these events have all also caused injuries and deaths.

None of these occurrences, however, have stopped our region from becoming a fast-growing economic powerhouse that offers jobs, opportunities for businesses and first-class neighborhoods in which families can build a future.

Now we’re experiencing a new kind of natural event — one with which we’re not all that familiar and is understandably causing great concern. Tremors in North Texas have begun to take on a surprising frequency, and the residents of our area are looking for answers. People want to learn more about why they’re occurring, how dangerous they are to our communities and if there’s some way to stop them.

Though humans can’t stop Mother Nature, there is much we can do, and are now doing, to better understand the nature of these tremors and how public services can best be used to educate, support and protect our citizens. Fortunately, no injuries or any major damage has been reported due to the shaking. 

The quakes in the North Texas region have ranged in magnitude from 2.1 to 3.6, which is considered minor and not capable of delivering any considerable damage. In fact, seismologists have been measuring quakes in North Texas since 2008, and experts from the U.S. Geological Survey still consider the region to be at a very low risk for major seismic activity. 

Since the tremors started last year, we’ve been working with seismologists from Southern Methodist University to deploy dozens of seismographs across the region so they can better pinpoint the origin of the quakes, measure their intensity and develop modeling for what is occurring in our portion of the Balcones Fault Zone. Taking accurate readings and making evaluations will take time, but it’s a start in helping us more thoroughly understand the geology beneath our feet.

We’ve also launched a joint task force with the city of Dallas to determine what public sector emergency planning we should undertake, how to coordinate with the county and state, and measures we can take to help educate our communities to not only help protect themselves but also about the nature of these tremors. Our mission is to gather important, practical information that will equip our citizens with better knowledge so they can feel more secure and to train our city staff to act accordingly when these tremors occur. What we won’t do is jump to irrational, unsupported conclusions.

Certainly, we have a lot to learn. Fortunately, we also have relationships with West Coast municipalities for which major and minor earthquakes are a part of life. We’re seeking guidance from them and their emergency management staff on what constitutes an event that should cause concern and could impact our cities. While these tremors can be unnerving, I’ve been reassured by other elected officials that they’re not likely to be terribly impactful given the minor level of intensity we’ve experienced so far.

Still, I want to assure North Texans that we’re working every day to learn more, become better prepared and help our citizens be better informed. Just as our weather reporters have made quantum leaps with better radar and understanding of weather patterns, so too must we develop better readings and measurements of this fault zone. 

As we do so, we’ll move forward with the confidence and fortitude that Texans always muster when faced with a new challenge. Generations before us scraped a living out the dirt, heat and the worst of elements that could be thrown at them. For us, we’re not going to let a bit of shaking keep us from strengthening our beloved communities for the families who call them home.

Disclosure: Southern Methodist University is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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