Oklahoma quakes rattle nerves, crack walls

The USGS map of Oklahoma pinpoints the location of a 5.6-magnitude earthquake that occurred at 10:53 p.m. CDT Saturday.

The USGS map of Oklahoma pinpoints the location of a 5.6-magnitude earthquake that occurred at 10:53 p.m. CDT Saturday.

SPARKS, Okla. (AP) — Oklahomans more accustomed to tornadoes than earthquakes suffered through a weekend of temblors that cracked buildings, buckled a highway and rattled nerves. One quake late Saturday was the state’s strongest ever and jolted a college football stadium 50 miles away and was followed early Sunday by a jarring aftershock.

There were no reports in the hours after the quakes of any severe injuries or severe damage.

“That shook up the place, had a lot of people nervous,” Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon said of the late Saturday quake, the strongest of a series of quakes. “Yeah, it was pretty strong.”

The magnitude 5.6 earthquake Saturday night was centered near Sparks, 44 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, and could be felt throughout the state and in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, northern Texas and some parts of Illinois and Wisconsin, said geophysicist Jessica Turner at the U.S. Geological Survey. A magnitude 4.7 quake early Saturday was felt from Texas to Missouri.

Turner told The Associated Press that the subsequent magnitude 4.0 quake that struck at 3:39 a.m. Sunday was an aftershock centered some 36 miles east of Oklahoma City in the same region. Like Saturday night’s quake, she said it was another shallow quake occurring about 3 miles underground, but experts had no immediate explanation for the spurt in seismic activity.

Following the quakes or numerous small aftershocks, several homeowners and businesses reported cracked walls, fallen knickknacks and other minor damage. At Shawnee, the fire department said one spire on the administration building at St. Gregory University had been damaged and another one was leaning, according to KWTV in Oklahoma City.

An emergency manager in Lincoln County near the epicenter said U.S. 62, a two-lane highway that meanders through rolling landscape between Oklahoma City and the Arkansas state line, crumbled in places when the stronger quake struck Saturday night. Other reports Sunday were sketchy and mentioned cracks in some buildings and a chimney toppled.

“Earthquake damage in Oklahoma. That’s an anomaly right there,” Todd McKinsey of Moore told The Oklahoman newspaper after the magnitude 5.6 temblor centered 50 miles away left him with cracked drywall.

Oklahoma typically has about 50 earthquakes a year, and 57 tornadoes, but a swarm of quakes east of Oklahoma City contributed to a sharp increase in the number of temblors. Researchers said 1,047 quakes occurred last year, prompting them to install seismographs in the area. A cause of the uptick wasn’t known.

Saturday night’s earthquake jolted Oklahoma State University’s stadium shortly after the No. 3 Cowboys defeated No. 17 Kansas State. The crowd of 58,895 was still leaving when it hit, and players were in the locker rooms beneath the stands at Boone Pickens Stadium.

The temblor seemed to last the better part of a minute, rippling upward to the stadium press box.

“Everybody was looking around and no one had any idea,” Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “We thought the people above us were doing something. I’ve never felt one, so that was a first.”

The magnitude 4.7 earthquake that struck the area early Saturday was the first to rattle the area, but emergency officials said no injuries were reported at area hospitals.

“Nothing is destroyed or anything like that,” Prague City Police Department dispatcher Claudie Morton told the Tulsa World after the Saturday morning quakes.

A few hours before dawn Sunday, the latest quake set nerves on edge anew.

At the Prague Community Hospital in the region, registered nurse Jessie Plumb said no injured people had come into the emergency room by Sunday morning. But she said she and other hospital staffers felt the 4.0 magnitude quake before dawn while on the second floor of the building.

“It kind of gave a little bit of a shake, a little bit of rock ‘n roll,” she told The Associated Press by phone. “I would say it was 20 or 25 seconds.” She said she was anxious because of the number of quakes concentrated in her region in so short a span.

Saturday’s late-night quake was slightly less in intensity than a temblor that rattled the East Coast on Aug. 23. That 5.8 magnitude earthquake was centered in Virginia and was felt from Georgia to Canada. No major damage was reported, although cracks appeared in the Washington Monument, the National Cathedral suffered costly damage to sculpted stonework, and a number of federal buildings were evacuated.

Turner said the Saturday night quake was Oklahoma’s strongest on record.

USGS records show that a 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck El Reno, just west of Oklahoma City, in 1952 and, before Oklahoma became a state in 1907, a quake of similar magnitude 5.5 struck in northeastern Indian Territory in 1882.

She said quakes did start occurring in the region in February 2010 and added the latest activity appears to be part of that trend. She also said the magnitude 4.7 quake early Saturday appeared to be a prelude to Saturday night’s more potent quake and Sunday’s was an aftershock. “If these are going to continue to happen, we can’t predict,” she told AP.

Oklahoma Geological Survey researcher Austin Holland told Oklahoma City television station KOTV that the earthquake and aftershocks occurred on a known fault line.

Residents in Prague and Sparks felt an intense shaking, but for those farther away the quake was more of a dull rumble, he said.

“It shakes much more rapidly when you’re closer to it,” he said. “Because it’s a large earthquake, it’s going to rumble for a while.”

Morton said the office was flooded with calls, but no one reported any severe injuries or damage. She said residents told her that picture frames and mirrors fell from walls and broke, drawers worked loose from dressers and objects tumbled out of cabinets.

“Oh, man. I’ve never felt anything like that in my life,” Morton told the Tulsa newspaper. “It was the scariest thing. I had a police officer just come in and sit down and all the sudden the walls started shaking and the windows were rattling. It felt like the roof was going to come off the police department.”

Additional resources:

USGS latest USA earthquake list (AK = Alaska, by the way)

USGS latest Oklahoma earthquake report

Earlier coverage, posted at 5:39 a.m. Sunday:

SPARKS, Okla. (AP) — A 5.6 magnitude quake rocked central Oklahoma late Saturday after a day of smaller quakes, leaving cracked buildings and a buckled highway but no initial reports of major damage. The temblor was so strong it rattled a packed college football stadium 50 miles away and could be felt in Tennessee.

The quake, centered about 44 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, may be the strongest in state history if the reading is confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey after the agency initially reported a 5.2 magnitude event. Emergency authorities said they had no immediate reports of injuries or major damages.

But the quake shook a major college stadium as fans departed just minutes after third-ranked Oklahoma State had beaten No. 17 Kansas State.

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

An emergency manager in Lincoln County near the epicenter said U.S. 62, a highway in the region, had crumbled in places when the strongest quake of the day struck at 10:53 p.m. Saturday. Other reports in the early hours Sunday were sketchy and mentioned cracks in some buildings and a chimney toppled.

The USGS said the Saturday night quake struck near the community of Sparks — in eastern Oklahoma between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

The temblor shook the stadium at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater where a crowd of 58,895 had gathered to watch a down-to-the-wire major college match. Oklahoma State’s players were gathered in the locker room under the Boone Pickens Stadium stands just minutes after their victory when the ground began to shake. It lasted the better part of a minute, rippling upward to the stadium press box as the stands were clearing out of fans.

“Everybody was looking around and no one had any idea,” Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “We thought the people above us were doing something. I’ve never felt one, so that was a first.”

A magnitude 4.7 earthquake that struck the area early Saturday rattled homes and businesses, but emergency officials said no injuries were reported and that there had been no immediate reports of major damages.

“Nothing is destroyed or anything like that,” Prague City Police Department dispatcher Claudie Morton told the Tulsa World after a series of quakes Saturday morning.

But authorities said they would need to await daybreak for better light to assess any damages from the later, more powerful quake.

The late-night quake was slightly less in intensity than a temblor that rattled the East Coast on Aug. 23. That 5.8 magnitude earthquake was centered in Virginia and was felt from Georgia to Canada. No major damage was reported, although cracks appeared in the Washington Monument, the National Cathedral suffered costly damage to sculpted stonework, and a number of federal buildings were evacuated.

The Saturday night quake was felt as far away as Tennessee and Wisconsin, according to reports received by the USGS.

USGS records show that a 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck El Reno, just west of Oklahoma City, in 1952 and, before Oklahoma became a state in 1907, a quake of similar magnitude 5.5 struck in northeastern Indian Territory in 1882.

In Moore, Todd McKinsey told The Oklahoman newspaper of Oklahoma City that his home suffered minor damage from the day’s shaking.

“There’s a crack going from the closet to the ceiling. I’ve never seen that before. I was in my bedroom grabbing my phone and I happened to notice it,” McKinsey said.

Saturday’s earlier temblor, which hit at 2:12 a.m., woke people and pets as it shook an area that stretched from Texas to Missouri. Its epicenter was 6 miles north of Prague in Lincoln County, in the rolling hills about 50 miles east of Oklahoma City.

A 3.4 magnitude aftershock was reported at 2:27 a.m. from the same location, as well as a 2.7 magnitude aftershock at 2:44 a.m.

“Oh, man. I’ve never felt anything like that in my life,” Morton said to the Tulsa newspaper. “It was the scariest thing. I had a police officer just come in and sit down and all the sudden the walls started shaking and the windows were rattling. It felt like the roof was going to come off the police department.”

Morton said the office was flooded with calls, but no one reported injuries or major damage. She said residents told her that picture frames and mirrors fell from walls and broke, drawers worked loose from dressers and objects tumbled out of cabinets.

“We do have several damaged buildings downtown, but it’s just cracks and things like that,” Morton said.

Oklahoma Geological Survey researcher Austin Holland told Oklahoma City television station KOTV that the earthquake and aftershocks occurred on a known fault line.

Residents in Prague and Sparks felt an intense shaking, while farther away, the quake was more of a dull rumble, he said.

“It shakes much more rapidly when you’re closer to it,” he said. “Because it’s a large earthquake, it’s going to rumble for a while.”

Holland said his office received hundreds of emails from people who felt the quake. The messages came from as far as Texas, Missouri and Arkansas, he said.

Tom Foster of Oklahoma City told The Oklahoman that he slept through the earthquake but was awakened by an aftershock.

“I know we’ve already had several phone calls from out of state relatives wondering what happened,” Foster said. “I guess it’s more interesting than anything that was dangerous.”

Heather Spicer of Sapulpa said the shaking woke her son and their dog. “At first I thought an airplane had crashed nearby,” she told The Oklahoman. “But now I believe it was an earthquake because the whole house just kept vibrating with what sounded like distant thunder.”

In Muskogee, retired advertising and public relations executive Robert Rhea said he felt his home rocking for about 15 to 20 seconds with the last quake Saturday night.

“Oh man, it just about shook this old man out of his TV chair,” said Rhea, 70, speaking with The Associated Press by phone. He said nothing broke in his homes but he was rattled by all the shaking during the day.

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