Between 1847 and 1994 there were more than 110 recorded earthquakes of magnitude three or greater in Texas. No Texas earthquake has exceeded a magnitude of 6.0, and most have been fairly small and caused little or no damage. Damage has occurred in at least twenty-five of the recorded earthquakes, however, and one death has been attributed to a Texas quake. Almost all of the earthquakes in Texas have been caused by one of two sources. The major source is relief of tectonic stress along fault lines. These are most common in the Rio Grande rift belt, the Panhandle, the Ouachita Belt, and the Coastal Plain. Small earthquakes have also been attributed to well injections associated with oil and gas field operations and occur in areas near large oil and gas fields. The first known earthquake in Texas occurred in Seguin and New Braunfels on February 13, 1847. The largest earthquake in Texas occurred on August 16, 1931, near Valentine in Jeff Davis County; it measured about 6.0 on the Richter Scale. Many of the other West Texas earthquakes have occurred in El Paso, including the only Texas quake associated with a death; 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. Some of the larger earthquakes in the Panhandle include the 1917, 1925, and 1936 Panhandle and Borger quakes and the 1948 Dalhart quake. No earthquake in the Panhandle has exceeded a magnitude of 5.0. Earthquakes in East and Central Texas have been fairly small. Some notable ones have occurred at Manor (1873), Paige (1887), Creedmore (1902), Mexia-Wortham (1932), and Trout Switch (1934). Other significant earthquakes have occurred in Wellborn (1857), Hempstead (1910), and Anderson (1914) in the Southeast and in Rusk (1891), Center (1981), and Jacksonville (1981) in the Northeast. In April 1993 an earthquake of magnitude 4.2 that took place in Atascosa County damaged homes and a gas pipeline. On April 14, 1995, the second largest earthquake in Texas struck West Texas near Alpine. The quake measured 5.7 and caused alarm and minor damage in Alpine, Pecos, Fort Davis, and Marathon. The event generated widespread reports in the national media. Three years later, another tremor of magnitude 3.6 shook Alpine. The South Texas town of Alice reported a small earthquake of magnitude 3.8 on March 24, 1997, and in August 2000 Amarillo experienced a series of six earthquakes of magnitudes ranging from 2.7 to 3.3. The tremors caused hairline cracks in underground pipes and gas lines and in the walls of some buildings.
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Scott Davis, Wayne D. Pennington, and Steven M. Carlson, A Compendium of Earthquake Activity in Texas (Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin, 1989). Cliff Frohlich and Scott D. Davis, Texas Earthquakes (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002). Wayne D. Pennington and Scott D. Davis, "Numerous Quakes Shake Texas," Texas Almanac, 1986–87. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
September 1, 1995