Small earthquakes rattle central Oklahoma

JONES, Okla. —Two small earthquakes shook central Oklahoma minutes apart Friday, rattling nerves but little else.

Seismologists said a series of quakes dating to last summer were no cause for alarm.

"We've already got tornadoes in Oklahoma. Let's leave the earthquakes for California," said Carlos Lozano of nearby Choctaw. "You could hear the house creaking. I'm sure it's not good for the walls or the foundation."

A quake of magnitude 4.0 Friday morning was followed nine minutes later by one of magnitude 3.8. The first was Oklahoma's strongest since a 1998 earthquake near Lawton, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and was felt as far away as Tulsa, about 90 miles away.

"When they just keep doing it, it scares me," said Brenda Wright, visiting the Jones Drug Store. "Glasses were shaking in the cabinets and I lost my balance and went sideways. I thought the trailer was going to come off its blocks."

Quakes of magnitude 2.5 to 3 are generally the smallest felt by people.

"The first time, I was a little bit rattled and nervous," said Marci Jones, who bought earthquake insurance for her off-road-vehicle business amid last year's quakes. "When the second hit, I was scared, especially with what's happened in Haiti. That just makes it 10 times worse, not knowing if something could happen here."

Jones, a ranching and farming town of about 2,500 people just east of Oklahoma City, has been the epicenter of 16 quakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater since June. A quake Thursday measured magnitude 3.3.

Seismologist Austin Holland of the Oklahoma Geological Survey in Norman said there was no reason to believe the uptick is a sign that "the big one is coming" but that researchers would place equipment in the region.

"Earthquakes of these sizes don't need big faults. They can occur on very small fractures in the earth," he said.

Ryan Dragg, working on the ninth floor of the VA Medical Center in Oklahoma City, said he was jolted by the quake and that he and a co-worker briefly left the building.

"We looked at each other and said, 'Let's go outside,' " Dragg said. "I don't know proper protocol for earthquakes in Oklahoma."

Philip Johnston, Jones' treasurer, said the quakes seem so frequent that "no one seems to bother with them anymore."

But Bud Williams, eating lunch at Shuff's Main St. Grill, said he bought earthquake insurance last month.

"Why should I take a chance for $50 a year?" he said.