Oklahoma earthquake among strongest in state history

  • The 5.6-magnitude quake was felt from Nebraska to North Texas
  • No major damage or injuries have been reported

One of the largest earthquakes in Oklahoma’s history shook the state on Saturday morning, and was felt by people from Nebraska to North Texas.

The 5.6-magnitude earthquake happened at 7.02am in north-central Oklahoma, the United States Geological Survey said. No major damage was immediately reported, though video showed cracks slicing through the sides of buildings and bricks falling.

The USGS said the quake was relatively shallow, about four miles deep, and thus felt over a wide range. The agency also warned that aftershocks were likely.

Its intensity matches an earthquake in November 2011 in the same region where hydraulic fracking and natural gas are major industries. Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin said on Saturday that crews were checking bridges and structures for damage.

She also said the Oklahoma Corporation Commission was “reviewing disposal wells”, a reference to the wastewater disposal wells from fracking, which have been linked to earthquakes.

Oklahoma has suffered a series of earthquakes in the past year, with intensities as high as 5.1 and 4.7, and earlier this month the state felt three small quakes in a single weekend. Studies and government researchers have found that the underground disposal of wastewater from natural gas drilling is linked to the increase in 3.0 and stronger earthquakes in Oklahoma, and state regulators have recently limited disposal activity. Some parts of the state now are nearly as likely to suffer earthquakes as northern California. One Oklahoma region has a one-in-eight chance of having an earthquake this year.

“It was a sustained quaking. It lasted a long time,” Pawnee mayor Brad Sewell told CNN. “We’ve been having a lot of earthquakes over the last couple of years – most of those have been single tremors. You know, you feel it and it’s gone. This continued.”

Saturday’s quake was centered about nine miles north-west of Pawnee, Oklahoma, a city of about 2,200 people about 70 miles north-east of Oklahoma City. Earlier this week, the same area felt a 3.2-magnitude temblor.

Sean Weide in Omaha, Nebraska, told the Associated Press he’d never been in an earthquake before and thought he was getting dizzy. Weide said he and one of his daughters “heard the building start creaking” and it “was surreal”.

On Twitter, people from around the central US described the earthquake. “I’m in Memphis,” a man named John Combest wrote. “Entire hotel started swaying.”

Another user posted: “My third floor apartment in Euless, [Texas], shook and rattled like crazy for about 10-15 seconds,” while user Kathy Godell wrote: “Im in Kansas City, [Kansas]. Marble table was shaking, pictures on walls were moving.”

@USGS_Oklahoma in a camper in Stillwater. Thought someone had hooked up and were dragging us off.

— AgNewsFeed (@AgNewsFeed) September 3, 2016

Another 40-year resident of Wichita, Kansas, said the quake “woke me up” and “shook pretty hard, never felt one that hard in Wichita”.

In Dallas, local news reported that studio lights “started dimming and we heard lots of squeaking” as their building shook in the quake.


Amber Jamieson in New York

The GuardianTramp

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