Oklahoma Campground Shaken by Weekend Earthquakes
The Oak Glen RV Park in Chandler, Okla.,was shaken by several earthquakes over the weekend but suffered no damage.
The second, stronger quake, hit the RV park, located along historic Route 66 and just six miles northwest of the epicenter at Sparks, hit at 11 p.m. Saturday.
“Everybody was in bed, asleep” said owner Randy Hicks. “It rolled the bed around quite a bit and woke us up.”
His 33-site RV park and the 20 mobile homes in the park escaped damage and he’s not heard of any damage reported by his guests, he said.
Elsewhere, the quake, the strongest in the history of Oklahoma, cracked buildings, buckled a highway, rattled nerves and jolted a college football stadium 50 miles away, Associated Press reported.
It was followed early Sunday by a jarring aftershock. But although homes and other buildings cracked and suffered minor damage, there were no reports of severe injuries or major devastation.
Saturday night’s earthquake jolted Oklahoma State University’s stadium shortly after the No. 3 Cowboys defeated 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.”
The magnitude 5.6 earthquake was Oklahoma’s strongest on record, said Jessica Turner, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Centered near Sparks, 44 miles east of Oklahoma City, it could be felt throughout the state and in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, northern Texas and some parts of Illinois and Wisconsin. It followed a magnitude 4.7 quake early Saturday that was felt from Texas to Missouri.
A 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, Turner said. Like Saturday night’s quake, it was shallow, occurring about 3 miles underground, she said.
Oklahoma typically has about 50 earthquakes a year, and 57 tornadoes, but a burst of quakes east of Oklahoma City has contributed to a sharp increase. Researchers said 1,047 quakes shook Oklahoma last year, prompting them to install seismographs in the area. The reason for the increase isn’t known, and Turner said there was no immediate explanation for the weekend spurt in seismic activity.
Several homeowners and businesses reported cracked walls, fallen knickknacks and other minor damage. The Shawnee Fire Department told KWTV in Oklahoma City that one spire on the administration building at St. Gregory University had been damaged and another one was leaning.
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, crumpled 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 earthquake centered 50 miles away left him with cracked drywall. Most earthquakes that have hit the region have been much smaller.
The crowd of nearly 59,000 was still leaving Oklahoma State’s Boone Pickens Stadium when the earthquake hit, and players were in the locker rooms beneath the stands. The shaking 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.”
A few hours before dawn Sunday, the latest quake set nerves on edge anew.
Jessie Plumb, a registered nurse at Prague Community Hospital, said she and other staffers felt the 4.0 magnitude quake 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 said by telephone. “I would say it was 20 or 25 seconds.”
Plumb said she was anxious because of the number of earthquakes in so short a span and the fact that they were so strong.
Saturday’s late-night quake was slightly less in intensity than the one that rattled the East Coast on Aug. 23. That 5.8 magnitude earthquake was centered in Virginia and felt from Georgia to Canada. No major damage was reported, although cracks appeared in the Washington Monument, the National Cathedral suffered costly damage to elaborately sculpted stonework, and a number of federal buildings were evacuated.
Oklahoma has had big earthquakes before. USGS records show 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.
Turner said an active spate of earthquakes started in the region in February 2010 and the latest activity appears to be part of that trend. But experts are still puzzling out why the latest quakes have been concentrated in such a small geographic area around Sparks, she said.
The magnitude 4.7 quake early Saturday appeared to be a prelude, or foreshock, to Saturday night’s more potent quake, and Sunday’s was an aftershock, Turner said.
“If these are going to continue to happen, we can’t predict,” she said.