Strongest Earthquake Ever Recorded In Oklahoma Felt In Multiple States Saturday Morning, Blamed On Fracking Wastewater [Updated, Video]

Reports have just surfaced of a 5.6 magnitude earthquake which struck approximately 55 miles northwest of Tulsa. According to the Dallas News, the quake was felt by people more than 750 miles from the epicenter.

The 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck just northwest of Pawnee and was felt across Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa. Many on social media reported being awakened by the quake, which struck at about 7:02 EDT.

The USGS confirmed on their website and on social media that the 5.6 magnitude quake had struck, originating at a depth of 6.6 km.

Oklahoma has experienced a number of earthquakes in recent years, but they are typically under 4.0 magnitude. Today’s earthquake is either the strongest, or tied for the strongest, that the state has ever experienced, depending on how one measures. According to Tulsa World, the previous record was set by another 5.6 magnitude quake in Prague, Lincoln County.

Another strong earthquake, of 5.1 magnitude, struck in Fairview, Major County, in February this year, after a 4.8 magnitude quake in the same location in January.

Today’s earthquake was strong enough to be felt across much of the southern United States, and reports are still coming in.

This was the first strong earthquake to strike Pawnee County, and as such, may be cause for some concern, potentially indicating a new fault line opening, or a previous fault system, such as those running through Lincoln County, expanding.

The USGS has currently assigned a “green” status to the quake for both economic damage and loss of life; the damage from the quake, in spite of its strength, is expected to be minimal.

The USGS uses multiple monitoring methods to build a picture of earthquakes in progress.
According to CNN, Dede Pershall, the Pawnee police and fire dispatcher, said that a number of damage reports were coming in from people near the earthquake’s epicenter.

“We are getting lots of of reports of buildings with bricks that came off and broken windows.”

At least one historical building was damaged, according to Brad Sewell, the mayor of Pawnee.

“It’s an old historical building about 100 years old. It’s still standing but some of the outer layers of sandstone fell, it could be cosmetic damage, we don’t know yet.”

Keli Cain, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, confirmed that this was the biggest quake to hit Oklahoma since 2011.

According to the Associated Press, the increase in high-magnitude earthquakes in Oklahoma has been linked to fracking wastewater disposal – wastewater created in the extraction process for oil and natural gas in the state. Regulators have asked the oil and gas industry to reduce their wastewater emissions in response to the increased earthquake frequency; some areas of Oklahoma are now as prone to high-magnitude earthquakes as northern California – America’s most earthquake-prone region.

Parts of Oklahoma now have a 1-in-8 chance of a damaging earthquake in 2016.

Pressure on the oil and gas industry to reduce or eliminate fracking is increasing in the wake of consequences such as today's earthquake.
Currently, no major damage or loss of life as a result of the quake have been reported, but reports are noting that the same spot saw a 3.2 magnitude earthquake earlier in the week, which went mostly unremarked, and that there is a danger of further quakes in the region. A cluster of earthquakes in northwestern Oklahoma earlier this year saw a 5.1 magnitude quake, and last fall there were several 4.7 magnitude quakes before regulators took action to limit damaging wastewater disposal.

In the meantime, Tom Briggs, manager of the Pawnee Chamber of Commerce, says that damage remains minor and no injuries have been reported.

“We had some buildings, some of the older structures, delaminate. The fire department and electricians and police are going through the area.”

[Photo by ~UserGI15632746/ThinkStock]