Midwesterners are being reminded almost weekly now that earthquakes aren’t just for Californians.
Just last weekend, two earthquakes were recorded within hours of each other in south-central Kansas with magnitudes of 3 and greater.
Scientists are scrambling to figure out what is causing thousands of minor temblors in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, with fingers pointed at oil and gas extractors, who argue that the quakes aren’t man-made.
This year, Oklahoma has surpassed California in the number of quakes of at least a 3 magnitude, the level at which shaking ground can be felt. In March, a temblor that hit 4.3 was felt as far away as Kansas City.
South-central Kansas has had its share, too. So far this year, Kansas’ two monitors have recorded more than 40 earthquakes. The state recorded 30 in all of last year.
While many of Kansas’ quakes are minor — not surpassing a magnitude of 3 — homes and properties are being damaged.
States, including Kansas, are suggesting that homeowners in areas prone to shaking ground consider buying earthquake insurance. It’s an idea that in the not-too-distant past would have caused many flat-state residents to snort derisively.
“We are talking about insurance a lot more than we had,” says Kansas Insurance Department spokesman Bob Hanson. “It may be something people would want to consider.”
Hanson says earthquake coverage is optional, and you can get it cheap in the Midwest. One insurance company in Kansas that The Pitch
called charges $25 a year. In California, the premium can be $500 or more.
In Oklahoma, where 263 earthquakes above a magnitude of 3 have occurred this year, state insurance officials are heavily pushing earthquake insurance.
“We have had pretty significant damage [in a couple of earthquakes],” says Oklahoma Insurance Department spokeswoman Kelly Collins. Chimneys have fallen. Foundations have cracked. And at St. Gregory’s University, the state’s only Catholic college, architectural turrets have collapsed.
A 5.6-magnitude earthquake in 2011 led to more Oklahoma homeowners buying insurance. Collins says the top five insurance companies reported that 3 percent of homeowners had earthquake insurance at the beginning of 2011. Now, 15 percent do.
In Wellington, south of Wichita, Cody Sims, director of economic development for the city, says he is not “a bit interested in buying earthquake insurance.”
“I think it is way too premature to jump to any conclusions until researchers do more studies,” he says.
But Sims says he knows people who are buying earthquake insurance.
“I know several people who have,” he says.
Sims compares the earthquakes with trains.
“We have 85 to 90 trains a day pass by here, so the ground rumbles a lot,” Sims says.