Kansas and regional news

Kansas and regional news

Big quake follows increase in Oklahoma rumblings

November 7, 2011


— Clouds of dust belched from the corners of almost every room in Joe Reneau’s house as the biggest earthquake in Oklahoma history rocked the two-story building.

A roar that sounded like a jumbo jet filled the air, and Reneau’s red-brick chimney collapsed and fell into the roof above the living room. By the time the shaking stopped, a pantry worth of food had been strewn across the kitchen and shards of glass and pottery covered the floor.

“It was like WHAM!” said Reneau, 75, gesturing with swipes of his arms. “I thought in my mind the house would stand, but then again, maybe not.”

The magnitude 5.6 earthquake and its aftershocks still had residents rattled Sunday.

Two minor injuries were reported from Saturday’s quakes by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, which said neither person was hospitalized. And, aside from a buckled highway and the collapse of a tower on the St. Gregory’s University administration building in Shawnee, no major damage was reported.

But the weekend earthquakes were among the strongest yet in a state that has seen a dramatic, unexplained increase in seismic activity.

Saturday’s earthquakes

Oklahoma typically had about 50 earthquakes a year until 2009. Then the number spiked, and 1,047 quakes shook the state last year, prompting researchers to install seismographs in the area. Still, most of the earthquakes have been small.

Saturday night’s big one jolted Oklahoma State University’s stadium shortly after the No. 3 Cowboys defeated No. 17 Kansas State. Fans were still leaving the game.

“That shook up the place, had a lot of people nervous,” Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon said.

The temblor sent Jesse Richards’ wife running outside because she thought their home was going to collapse. The earthquake centered near their home in Sparks, 44 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, could be felt throughout the state and in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, northern Texas and some parts of Illinois and Wisconsin.

Richards estimated it lasted for as much as a minute. One of his wife’s cookie jars fell on the floor and shattered, and pictures hanging in their living room were knocked askew.

“We’ve been here 18 years, and it’s getting to be a regular occurrence,” said Richards, 50. But, he added, “I hope I never get used to them.”

More jolts to come?

Geologists now believe a magnitude 4.7 earthquake Saturday morning was a foreshock to the bigger one that followed that night. They recorded at least 10 aftershocks by midmorning Sunday and expected more. Two of the aftershocks, at 4 a.m. and 9 a.m., were big, magnitude 4.0.

“We will definitely continue to see aftershocks, as we’ve already seen aftershocks from this one,” said Paul Earle, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. “We will see aftershocks in the days and weeks to come, possibly even months.”

Brad Collins, the spokesman for St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, said one of the four towers on its “castle-looking” administration building collapsed in the big earthquake and the other three towers were damaged. He estimated the towers were about 25 feet tall.

Looking for a cause

Scientists are puzzled by the recent seismic activity. It appeared the latest quake occurred on the Wilzetta fault, but researchers may never know for sure. Earthquakes that hit east of the Rocky Mountains are harder to pinpoint because the fault systems are not as well studied as major faults like the San Andreas in California.

Arkansas also has seen a big increase in earthquake activity, which residents have blamed on injection wells. Natural gas companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, use fluid to break apart shale and rock to release natural gas. Injection wells then dispose of the fluid by injecting it back into the ground.

There are 181 injection wells in the Oklahoma county where most of the weekend earthquakes happened, said Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which oversees oil and gas production in the state and intrastate transportation pipelines.

But natural gas companies claim there is no proof of a connection between injection wells and earthquakes, and a study released earlier this year by an Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist seems to back that up.


Cait McKnelly 6 years, 2 months ago

So how many people think this is because of fracking?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

it's either that or God is pissed off at Oklahoma, or both.

kernal 6 years, 2 months ago

I find it interesting that after all these years, quakes over 4.0 are becoming more frequent where we least expect them as well as the number of number of smaller tremors. I don't know anything about the credibility of the geologists who are saying the fracturing has nothing to do with it, but if that's the case, might these quakes be a prelude to waking the sleeping giant known as the Madrid Fault? it's been pretty quiet for almost 200 years.

Wonder what the data is on increased tremors east of the Rockies for the past two years.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

Myth, myth, myth. Well, maybe not.

"It’s Official: Human Activity Can Cause Earthquakes"

Clipped from: http://www.prisonplanet.com/its-official-human-activity-can-cause-earthquakes.html

"Earthquakes induced by human activity have been documented in a few locations in the United States, Japan, and Canada. The cause was injection of fluids into deep wells for waste disposal and secondary recovery of oil, and the use of reservoirs for water supplies"

Clipped from: http://georgewashington2.blogspot.com/2011/08/its-official-human-activity-can-cause.html

"Induced seismicity [i.e. earthquakes] in oil and gas production has been observed ever since the 1930s, i.e., ever since large scale extraction of fluids occurred. The most famous early instance was in Wilmington, California, where the oil production triggered a series of damaging earthquakes. In this instance the cause of the seismicity was traced to subsidence due to rapid extraction of oil without replacement of fluids."

Clipped from: http://books.google.com/books?id=iXfhFnoQBQ0C&pg=PA327&lpg=PA327&dq=denver+earthquakes+waste+water+injection&source=bl&ots=U_tFp8CnKl&sig=TONiBaJAoUkiXWPSOr0t21EUxTQ&hl=en&ei=zvW3TobbLoq3sQLGyYWHBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CFUQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=denver%20earthquakes%20waste%20water%20injection&f=false

"There have been no significant earthquakes in Denver since injection of wastewater into the disposal well ceased in 1965."

Clipped from: http://aquadoc.typepad.com/waterwired/2011/06/earthquakes-and-fluid-injection.html

"The Natural State There's a modern day gold rush in Faulkner County, Arkansas... this one, for natural gas. Since 2005, more three thousand natural gas wells have been drilled in the area. Each of these wells was hydro-fractured or “fracked,” a controversial technique in which millions of gallons of water – and some chemicals - are injected into the shale, breaking the rock and allowing extraction of embedded natural gas. In the town of Greenbrier the natural gas industry has benefited plenty of people. But in recent months, residents have had to contend with another, absolutely unexpected boom. A swarm of mysterious earthquakes began last fall along an ancient and heretofore unknown fault."

puddleglum 6 years, 2 months ago

its not fracking....if they really did have an earthquake, they did it themselves.

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