OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma is no longer known as the state where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. Now, the Sooner State also leads the world in seismic activity.
This year, more than 5, 000 earthquakes have been recorded and studied in our state. Residents have become accustomed to the little shaking, rattling and rolling.
However, experts say earthquakes in Oklahoma will likely increase in magnitude over time.
Now, research said it’s only a matter of time before we get a big one that will change life for those of us living here.
Over the years, damage has been caught on camera.
“Well, Oklahoma State pulled out a squeaker there,” the Cowboys fan said on video in 2011 when the room began to quake. “We’re having an earthquake. Do you hear that?”
In 2011, a 5.6 magnitude earthquake shook the state, becoming the largest quake in recent Oklahoma history.
Now, research shows a bigger, stronger one could hit soon.
“Isn’t this lovely?” Jackie Dill, a Coyle resident says shaking a column on her front porch.
For 10 years, Dill has called this 1930’s Coyle house her home.
“Up here on the roof, I want you to see, this really worries me,” Dill says pointing out a spot on her roof. “Hit so hard we can see the rafters creaking right? We walked out and do you see the bump in the roof where the rafter is peaking up?”
Now, her house buckles each time the seismometers catch any ground quaking action.
“When I moved in in 2005, none of this was here. None of these cracks, not one,” Dill said.
Fast forward 10 years later, you wonder how it’s still standing.
“I now invest on lots of mortar for the rocks, I buy it by the bagfuls,” Dill says.
But a little mortar to help the visible cracks won’t help the underlying problems.
“We really just planned to live out the rest of our life here and be comfortable, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, we thought we had it all, we really did,” Dill said.
Now Jackie, like many Oklahomans, is waiting for the one that’s sure to crumble her home.
“There’s a lot of us out here, what are we going to have to do to get their attention?” Dill says.
“It’s unclear exactly how high we might go, and the predictions are upper 5-6 range for most things that I’ve seen,” Todd Halihan, a researcher from OSU, says.
Halihan studies these quakes; his expertise is hydrogeophysics.
“Underneath any of these urban areas, whether it’s Stillwater, Cushing, Oklahoma City, Guthrie, these cities are not built to seismic standards. They’re not in L.A.” Halihan said.
What would happen to the Devon tower, Chesapeake Arena, our bridges and our roads if a big one hit in the center of Oklahoma City?
“We have a lot of buildings that were built with earthquakes not even on the radar screen, so we would expect probably a fair bit of damage,” Halihan said.
“There’s just so much. It’s, you know, I’ve done all my crying and now I’m just angry, I’m so angry,” Dill says. “Anything that has to do with the state we might as well forget.”
“We’re not out ahead of it yet, we still have fires burning, and we’re trying to get ahead of those fires, but we’re not there yet,” Matt Skinner, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, said.
“The changing point I think was the Prague quake, because as a result of that, we had a hearing as to how we should proceed in the Prague area for oil and gas exploration,” Skinner says.
Many people believe the commission is sitting back and watching the quakes happen, but they say that’s not the case.
Our cameras were given a rare look at the work.
“March of this year, we issued a directive that applied to over 300 disposal wells that dispose into the Arbuckle formation that said prove that you are not in the basement, in other words, you haven’t drilled too deep,” Skinner says. “So the idea was to dial back the total volume for the area that’s going down to a pre-seismicity level.”
We wondered why it’s taken until this year to see action, OCC says they were waiting on data from oil and gas companies.
Information that by law, does not have to be shared, but now they’re handing it over.
“An arrangement was eventually come to where there’s a regular exchange now between the oil and gas industry,”Skinner says.
What they called a game-changer in slowing down the quakes.
“All of the sudden, for the first time, we’re seeing stressed faults, where seeing where the basement faulting is” Skinner says.
But is the oil and gas industry being completely forthcoming?
“It’s a great question, it’s a logical question and people don’t ask it enough,” Skinner said. “It is being used if you will, against them and yet the data hasn’t slowed, if anything it’s increased. The big problem we face right now is not that we don’t have enough data to analyze, the big problem we have right now is we don’t have enough people to analyze it.”