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Arkansas earthquakes: Would your insurance cover it?

In Arkansas seismologists say a 5.5 magnitude quake or higher along the southwest point of the New Madrid fault could cause damage in central Arkansas. But standard homeowner's insurance wouldn't cover it.
In Arkansas, seismologists say a 5.5 magnitude quake or higher along the southwest portion of the New Madrid fault could cause damage in central Arkansas. Since November we've seen 16 quakes, but none over magnitude 2.7.  However, experts say it's only a matter of time before a big one hits.

Standard homeowner's insurance wouldn't cover it. It can be a little scary when you consider all the homes built on hillsides in central Arkansas.

Celia Harkey grew up in Northeast Arkansas near the New Madrid fault line. "I can remember even as a small child living in Northeast Arkansas and we used to have tremors that used to be scary to me."

She feels safer in central Arkansas but learning that a 5.5 magnitude quake or higher along the southern portion of the New Madrid could impact us here, she's considering additional quake coverage. "With earthquakes you really don't know what the impact might be," Harkey said.

Haydar Al-Shukri with UALR has been studying earthquakes for years. He says there are 4 earthquake hotspots in the state, the worst being the 100 mile long New Madrid fault in Northeast Arkansas. It is the most likely to produce a major quake, possibly causing damage in Little Rock. Al-Shukri said if it is upwards of a magnitude 5.5 or 6 quake you can anticipate seeing some non-structural or structural damage here in parts of central Arkansas.

Arkansas Insurance commissioner Jay Bradford says quake coverage is so reasonable, $100 to $125 a year for a $100,000 home, he doesn't understand why more people don't get it. "It would be a very serious situation if we had an earthquake and someone didn't have coverage. It could be devastating personally," Bradford said.

Harkey's home is wood framed which is more tolerant to an earthquake. It would be flexible while a brick home would crack. Still, she says earthquake insurance is something everyone should consider. You never know what could happen here in the Natural State.

Only 7 percent of Arkansas insurance companies let you add earthquake coverage to your homeowner's policy. But other Arkansans are eligible for something called the Market Assistance Plan. That allows Arkansans who want earthquake insurance to go through a local broker to get a separate earthquake policy.

The most recent earthquake in Arkansas was on March 20th. It was a 2.4 magnitude quake in Manila, Arkansas in the northeast part of the state near the New Madrid fault line. Seismologists are also studying earthquake hotspots in Faulkner, Garland, and St. Francis counties.
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