A 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook northwest Oklahoma and was felt in seven other states on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said. It was the third-largest temblor ever recorded in the state where the power and frequency of earthquakes has dramatically increased in recent years.
The earthquake, centered about 17 miles north of Fairview in northwestern Oklahoma, occurred at 11:07 a.m. and was reportedly felt across Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas, the USGS said. A second quake measured at 3.9 magnitude struck ten minutes later, followed at 11:41 a.m. by a 2.5 magnitude quake. Both were in the same area of the larger temblor and about 100 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.
Fairview police and the Major County Sheriff’s Office had no reports of injury or significant damage. Sheriff’s dispatcher Cheryl Landes said there had been several calls from concerned residents, but no damage more than pictures knocked off shelves and walls. One woman said she’d wait until it got warmer outside to check her home for damage, Landes said.
The strongest earthquake on record in Oklahoma is a magnitude 5.6 temblor centered in Prague, about 55 miles east of Oklahoma City, in November 2011, that damaged 200 buildings and shook a college football stadium in Stillwater, about 65 miles away. The second-strongest was a 5.5 magnitude earthquake in April 1952 that was centered in El Reno, on the western edge of Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma’s stronger and more frequent earthquakes have been linked to the injection of the briny wastewater left over from oil and gas production underground. Regulators have recommended reducing the volume or shutting down some of the disposal wells. Oil and gas operators in Oklahoma, where the industry is a major economic and political force, have resisted cutting back on their injections of wastewater.
The hundreds of quakes have been mostly small to medium-sized, and have caused limited damage. But a quake did knock out power in parts of an Oklahoma City suburb several weeks ago, and last month about 200 unhappy residents packed a forum at the state capitol convened by critics of the state’s response.
Governor Mary Fallin last month approved the use of nearly $1.4 million in state emergency funds for state agencies working to reduce the number of earthquakes linked to the wastewater disposal.