Oklahoma Earthquakes 'One Big Science Experiment,' Geologist Says

<p>A University of Tulsa geologist explained why an earthquake close to 200 miles away can still cause some damage.</p>

Thursday, November 19th 2015, 11:24 pm

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission wants companies to close two wells and cut back at 23 others after a series of earthquakes Thursday.

They're also putting all wells within 15 miles of an earthquake on notice they may have to make changes.

11/19/2015 Related Story: 2 Disposal Wells To Shut Down Following Cherokee Area Earthquakes

Thursday’s strongest quake was a 1:42 a.m. and registered 4.7 and happened near Cherokee, which is about two-and-a-half hours west of Tulsa.

The U.S. Geological Survey said people in 13 states said they felt the earthquake.

Four more earthquakes happened in the same area Thursday, and two others near Crescent, Oklahoma.

Some people in our area felt the quake, but not everyone.

A University of Tulsa geologist explained why that’s the case, and why an earthquake close to 200 miles away can still cause some damage.

Dr. Peter Michael said all the earthquakes in Oklahoma make for one big science experiment. He said there have already been more than 2,500 in the state.

Thursday’s 4.7 magnitude quake shook security cameras and knocked some things off shelves at the United Supermarket in Cherokee, Oklahoma, and more than 160 miles away, in midtown Tulsa, the earth moved too.

11/19/2015 Related Story: Multiple Earthquakes, Including 4.7 Magnitude, Shake Oklahomans Awake

“I never expected when I moved to Oklahoma that I'd be experiencing earthquakes,” Michael said.

He studied earthquakes during graduate school at Columbia. Now he’s now a geology professor at TU, where earthquakes are a hot topic.

“We're still in the excitement mode at the size earthquakes we've felt this year, not the panic mode. I think you once you go over about a five you get beyond excitement,” he said.

Michael was shaken awake around 1:45 Thursday morning. He said it took just over a minute for the earthquake energy from Cherokee to rattle Tulsa.

“The surprising thing for me was the amount of shaking we felt from an earthquake that was that far away,” he said.

Michael said whether an earthquake shakes a home or business is tied to what's underneath.

He explained, “The ones who live in south Tulsa, either they're really heavy sleepers or they live close to the bedrock. The ones that live in midtown, especially near the river, must be either lighter sleepers or they have more sediment between them and the bedrock.”

Even though the epicenters for Oklahoma's recent earthquakes haven't been too close to Tulsa, they can still cause some damage, Michael said, like hairline cracks in plaster walls and masonry.

He doesn't believe Oklahoma's on pace for a large, damaging earthquake, but that doesn't mean homeowners won't still have to pay in the end.

“I don't think long-term environmental damage, but I think I might have to sell my house for less money when I finally sell it,” he said.


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