Insurers Expected to Halt New Business in Nevada as Temblors Continue

May 1, 2008

Dozens of minor earthquakes shook Reno, Nevada, on April 27 as a sequence of temblors entered its third month and prompted some frazzled residents to leave their homes.

Officials recorded more than 150 aftershocks on the western edge of the city after a magnitude 4.7 quake hit on April 25, the strongest quake in the sequence that began Feb. 28. There were no reports of injuries or widespread damage.

The Reno temblors have prompted a flood of calls from homeowners to insurance companies about quake insurance.

MetLife placed a 30-day moratorium on new coverage after a 4.2 quake jolted Reno on April 24. Until then, the strongest quake in the sequence had been 3.6 on April 16.

Other insurers were expected to follow suit.

“It probably will be extended, unfortunately, because of the one (April 25) night,” MetLife agent Charlotte Eckmeyer said, adding quake coverage just about doubles premiums.

Scientists have urged residents to prepare for worse, saying the recent activity is unusual because the quakes started out small and continue to build in strength.

After being awakened up to three to four times a night by quakes in her Reno home, retiree Sandra Petty decided to spend nights 10 miles away at the home of her daughter, Stefanie McCaffrey.

“The quakes have sent her emotions and nerves into a tailspin,” McCaffrey said. “She was exhausted, and she couldn’t relax or unwind. She just needed to get away so she could have a good night’s sleep.”

Keith Phillips said he’s going to live somewhere else, possibly with his children, until the activity settles down. He lives about a block from the epicenter of the temblor, which cracked walls in his house and sent one of his garages off its foundation.

“I grew up in the Bay Area and went through some major quakes down there,” Phillips told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Since we’re right on top of the epicenter, I’ve never felt anything like this.”

The strongest aftershock Sunday measured 3 and was recorded shortly before 11 a.m.

Elsewhere across the state, three other magnitude 3-plus tembors have struck since the April 25 4.7 quake in Reno – near Eureka, Tonopah and Lee.

The quakes around Reno began a week after a magnitude 6 temblor in the northern Nevada town of Wells, near the Utah border. The Feb. 21 quake has been followed by hundreds of aftershocks.

Scientists said they’re unsure whether the seismic activity across the state unique for its basin-and-range topography is related.

“Not enough is known about the faults and their history and what their role is,” said Ken Smith of the University of Nevada, Reno’s seismological laboratory.

Nevada is the third most seismically active state in the nation behind California and Alaska.

Reno’s last major quake measured 6.1 on April 24, 1914.

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