Record year for Oklahoma earthquakes

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OKLAHOMA -- Just Wednesday afternoon, a 3.0 magnitude earthquake shook the central Oklahoma town of Wellston. Experts tell us the state experienced more than 1,000 quakes last year, with tremors felt by more than 60,000 people across Oklahoma and surrounding states.

Seismologists saw a big jump in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma last year. More than 1,000 quakes were recorded in 2011 -- ten times the average number of 100 a year.

Last year also produced the strongest quake in the state's history -- a 5.6 magnitude tremor in Lincoln County -- in November.

Oklahoma Geological Survey Seismologist, Austin Holland says it's uncommon to see the number of earthquakes jump so drastically.

"It's a little unusual, to see this large uptick, some of that is due to the fact we have more seismic instruments in the state, so the more you listen, the more you're gonna hear," Holland said.

November 5th, 2011 -- an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.7 shook Lincoln County. Just a few hours later, a record 5.6 magnitude quake rocked the county.

Several other quakes in that area followed a few days later.

"That's quite normal after a large earthquake like this, you're gonna have many felt earthquakes afterwards and the number of felt earthquakes falls away with time. And the number of earthquakes in general dissipates with time," Holland said.

Thousands of people from as far north as Wisconsin, to as far south as the Dallas-Fort Worth area felt tremors from that earthquake.

Holland says it has something to do with the rocks in the region.

"Here in the central U.S., the rocks are colder and older than rocks in western United States, so a same size earthquake can be felt over a broader region in central United States than it is in the western United States."

Holland says there are a few fault-lines running through Texoma and one of them could cause a significant earthquake.

"The largest fault that we know of that is capable of producing earthquakes is the Meers fault in southwestern Oklahoma," Holland says. "So we know there are faults in the area and it's possible to have large earthquakes in that portion of Oklahoma."

"The whole area is actually susceptible to earthquakes. There are a few well known fault lines, one is now the Wilzetta fault line, which is just north of Texoma, northeast of the Ada area, and that has been sparking several earthquakes in the past few years."

That's why SOSU graduate and Denison resident, Christopher Nunley, developed a website to provide Texomans the information they need in case of an earthquake.

"My website,, was developed as an additional resource for the Texoma community to get severe weather preparedness tips, including tips for earthquakes."

Nunley is studying meteorology and geology at the University of Oklahoma and says the series of earthquakes last November prompted experts to keep an eye on nearby fault lines like the Wilzetta fault.

"My university, the University of Oklahoma, as well as the Oklahoma Geological Survey have deployed several monitoring systems along that fault line to gather more research to help prepare the state, Texas and Oklahoma, for earthquakes," said Nunley.

Those earthquakes also spurred the USGS to host the first Great Central U.S. Shakeout, February 7th. More than 2.4 million people took part in the multi-state earthquake drill, 70-thousand in oklahoma.
Holland and Nunley say it's a good way to get ready for more quakes, because the ground isn't done shaking, and there's no way to be sure when or where the next big one will hit.

"The last two years have been pretty remarkable in the amount of earthquakes reported here in Oklahoma and I certainly don't see a reason why it won't be the case this year," said Holland.

"I just urge everybody to be prepared because earthquakes are getting more frequent in the Texoma area, so most people think about tornadoes when people need to think about earthquakes too," Nunley saId.

If you'd like to track any earthquake activity in your area, or for ways to prepare for an earthquake click the links below for Primo-Weather and the U-S-Geological Survey.

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