Just after 7:00 AM on Saturday, September 3rd, I was sleep on the 4th floor of a hotel in Oklahoma City as the room started to shake. It was startling, but even in my sleepy state I knew what was happening, another large earthquake was shaking my state.
Sensing the quake was large I got on my phone to see how far people were feeling it. I checked the damage reports coming in on social media. I saw friends all over the state posting about the quake. People reported feeling the quake in Kansas, Missouri, Texas, and beyond. This wasn’t just one of the 2.0-3.0 quakes we were used to. This was clearly bigger.
Reading my friends comments I saw fear, and also anger towards our state government and the oil and gas industry for allowing these manmade quakes from fracking to continue.
The earthquake was reported as a magnitude 5.6 quake, making it tied with the strongest earthquake on record in Oklahoma. However, a few days after the quake, the U.S. Geological Survey upgraded Saturday’s quake to magnitude 5.8, making it the strongest earthquake in state history. The previous record holder, an earthquake in 2011, had also been upgraded to 5.7.
One difference between Saturday’s quake and the large one in 2011 is people’s reactions. After the 2011 earthquake, some blamed fracking, but the oil and gas industry firmly denied it.
After Saturday’s quake, the media, and even the state government, were admitting that fracking was the likely cause, as it shutdown the 37 wastewater disposal wells within 725-square-mile area of the epicenter. Then the EPA stepped in to shut down 17 more wells in northeastern Oklahoma. Plus, many wells are located on tribal land therefore Oklahoma regulators have no jurisdiction over the facilities.
Since the earthquake, the shaking continued, including a magnitude 3.9 quake on Tuesday. And, after discovering that the 5.8 quake happened on an unknown fault, scientists are warning there could be more coming.
Dan McNamara, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey warned, “If you live near an area that’s had smaller earthquakes, you might be prepared for stronger shaking.”
Raising Concerns and Rising Insurance Rates
Saturday’s quake caused damage in the state, including destroying a couple’s home of 50 years. The latest damage comes as a big blow to many Oklahomans that don’t have earthquake insurance, including myself. The reason so many are not insured is because earthquakes are not covered on regular homeowners plans. Some don’t know that, and for those that do try to get coverage, it can be difficult because many polices don’t allow you to sign up when there has been a history of earthquakes nearby. An even bigger factor is the cost. Earthquake insurance costs have risen over 300% lately and have very high deductibles.
In June, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak called for a review of the rising rates. And there are serious concerns over payment. As of May, only 19 percent of earthquake-related claims since 2010 have been paid.
Even with Oklahoma searching for solutions, scientists don’t believe the shaking will end anytime soon. They warn that we could even see an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or even larger.
“Closing down wells doesn’t mean the seismicity will shut off,” said U.S. Geological Survey Geophysicist Daniel McNamara, citing a site in Denver that shifted for decades, even after injection activities were halted. “Even if all wells were to shut off today, there would still be energy in the system and earthquakes occurring for some time.”- KFOR
Bleak news like this makes Oklahomans fearful and unsure how to prepare and protect their families. We lack building codes to help our buildings withstand earthquakes, and insurance costs are too high for many and rarely payout.We just hold our breath and hope the shaking…and the fracking stops. (Tweet this)