A series of overnight earthquakes in Oklahoma, including a 3.0-magnitude near Chandler, have rattled the nerves of area residents while perplexed seismologists are working to study this latest round of seismic activity.
Five earthquakes were recorded between 1:45 a.m. and 5:15 a.m. Tuesday, with one having an epicenter about three miles southwest of Chandler in Lincoln County. Other quakes, some in the 3.0 and 4.0 range, were recorded near Luther and Boley.
Austin Holland, a geophysicist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, said they are studying all the data after more than 60 quakes, most of them too small to feel, were recorded in Oklahoma Tuesday.
“This one had us on our toes — it’s quite unique,” Holland said of the seismic activity. “It’s a prolific sequence…the earthquakes were very shallow and we’re frantically trying to make some scientific sense of it.”
For DormaLee McWilliams, who lives in Wellston, the overnight quakes rattled her from a sound sleep and kept her awake all night.
“I couldn’t go back to sleep…every time I would get relaxed, there would be another one,” she said. “It was unnerving.”
She finally gave up trying to doze off about 5 a.m. and got up to make coffee. McWilliams said the quakes continued off and on Tuesday.
“It’s scary…they’ve been happening all day long,” she said, adding the quakes caused some items to fall off shelves in her home.
Holland said late Tuesday afternoon the five or six quakes ranging from the 3.0 to 4.0 range in the Luther area, along with numerous smaller tremors, makes this a unique seismic situation for scientists.
“It’s odd and perplexing,” he said. “The earth always loves to surprise us.”
Holland said seismologists were installing monitoring equipment in the Wellston area Tuesday and are hopeful it will capture even more data from that specific area should more quakes occur.
“All appear to be associated with the same fault,” he said, which is different than the fault line near Prague that produced several large quakes in 2011.
While Holland said it’s too early to speculate on a cause of the latest round of earthquakes, he said they are looking at all possibilities, although the “regional stress fields,” which also caused the Prague quakes, also are a possibility.
Holland, who was scheduled for a trip Tuesday to a seismology conference, bumped his flight back a day to be able to study Tuesday’s activity in further detail, he said.
Page 2 of 2 - As of mid-evening Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported nine Oklahoma earthquakes for the day, with the first being recorded near Chandler. Most of those earthquakes were centered in an area northeast of Oklahoma City — many near the town of Luther and one near Boley.
Lincoln County Emergency Manager Joey Wakefield said there were no reports of injuries or damage as a result of the activity in the Lincoln County area, although there were many 911 calls overnight.
Wakefield reminds residents not to call 911 to report an earthquake unless there is damage or injuries, as it ties up emergency personnel for unnecessary reasons. The quake near Chandler centered around the 3390 Road area southwest of town, he said.
In the event of more earthquakes, Wakefield reminds residents to get under a sturdy desk or table to wait it out. He said many residents in the area took precautionary measures after all the activity in 2011, such as securing hot water tanks and items hanging on walls.
Geologists say quakes of magnitude 2.5 to 3.0 are generally the smallest that are felt by humans.