Magnitude 5.1 Earthquake Strikes Near Oklahoma City, Felt Across Region

Oklahoma hit by magnitude 5.1 earthquake, impacting power plants and highlighting surge in seismic activity linked to oil/gas exploration. Officials remain vigilant as larger quakes can occur in the region.

Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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Magnitude 5.1 Earthquake Strikes Near Oklahoma City, Felt Across Region

Magnitude 5.1 Earthquake Strikes Near Oklahoma City, Felt Across Region

On April 17, 2024, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck 2 km west-northwest of Bridge Creek, Oklahoma, at a depth of approximately 5.29 km. The quake was felt by people across the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, but did not trigger a tsunami. The nearest significant population centers to the epicenter are Tuttle, Newcastle, and Mustang, Oklahoma, all within 16 km.

The earthquake impacted 53 cities in the vicinity and affected 27 utility-scale power plants, including gas, oil, solar, wind, and coal power plants. Gas power plants pose risks of gas leaks, fires, and pollution during earthquakes, while solar power plants have risks related to the release of materials used in panel production. Wind power plants have a risk of tower collapse, but generally pose lower risks compared to other power sources. Oil-fired power plants have significant risks of oil spills, fires, and environmental contamination during earthquakes.

Oklahoma City experiences a high level of seismic activity, with an average of 629 earthquakes per year based on data from the past 14 years and records dating back to 1900. The city has had at least 2 earthquakes above magnitude 5 since 2010, suggesting that larger quakes of this size occur infrequently, approximately every 5 to 10 years.

In the past 24 hours, Oklahoma City has had 2 small earthquakes between magnitudes 1.0 and 1.0, with the strongest being a light magnitude 1.0 earthquake that occurred 12 hours ago, 9.9 km away from Chickasha, Oklahoma. The most recent earthquake in the area was a light magnitude 0.6 quake that hit 34 km away from Oklahoma City 9 hours ago, with a very shallow depth of 5.3 km and was too small to be felt by people.

Why this matters: The magnitude 5.1 earthquake near Oklahoma City highlights the ongoing seismic activity in the state, which has seen a surge in earthquakes since 2009. Most of these quakes are caused, directly or indirectly, by oil and gas exploration, particularly the industrial practice of wastewater disposal. The earthquake's impact on power plants in the region also highlights the potential risks to critical infrastructure during seismic events.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Oklahoma has experienced a significant increase in seismic activity since 2009, with the state surpassing California in the number of earthquakes of magnitude 3 and higher during 2014-17. While most of these quakes are small, the recent magnitude 5.1 earthquake near Oklahoma City serves as a prompt that larger, potentially damaging earthquakes can occur in the region. As the state continues to grapple with the challenges posed by induced seismicity, officials and residents remain vigilant and prepared for future seismic events.

Key Takeaways

  • A magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck near Oklahoma City, impacting 53 cities and 27 power plants.
  • Oklahoma City experiences high seismic activity, averaging 629 earthquakes per year since 2009.
  • The recent quake highlights risks to critical infrastructure like power plants during seismic events.
  • Most Oklahoma earthquakes are caused by oil/gas exploration, particularly wastewater disposal practices.
  • While most quakes are small, larger, potentially damaging earthquakes can occur in the region.