Politics & Government

Wichita sent out crews Sunday to check on earthquake damage

This support structure in the City Hall parking garage had some surface-level damage after a September earthquake in Oklahoma.
This support structure in the City Hall parking garage had some surface-level damage after a September earthquake in Oklahoma. File photo

The city of Wichita immediately sent out three crews of workers Sunday night as a result of the 5.0 magnitude earthquake near Cushing, Okla., rather than waiting until Monday morning.

This response was done on an ad hoc basis but will likely become part of its regular earthquake response plan, according to Joe Pajor, deputy director of public works for the city.

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The crews, made up of employees for maintenance, water and the wastewater treatment plant, have people on duty 24 hours a day, so they are available to shift duties in the first 20 minutes after an earthquake, Pajor said.

“We don’t have that optimized yet,” Pajor said. “We did it on an ad hoc basis yesterday and it seemed to work very well and it will work even better after we’ve given some thought to see how they can spend the first 15 or 20 minutes after the event was felt.”

Last night the crew did not find any critical damage, immediately after the earthquake. So the city was able to save resources and wait until Monday morning to do a more thorough check. Initial reports have showed no damage to city buildings and infrastructure, Pajor said, but a full report will be made by the end of the day.

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If crews discover very serious earthquake with extensive damage, Pajor said, the city would call half its work force onto duty immediately. The other half would be taken off duty so that they would have a crew to relieve its first 12-hour response crew.

This new kind of swift response to earthquake damage is for medium-sized earthquakes, where there might be some damage but it likely wouldn’t be significant, Pajor said.

In the past, neither the magnitude of the earthquake nor how intensely the earthquake was felt, has correlated well with damage to city buildings, Pajor said. But they still will use the size and intensity of the earthquake to trigger an analysis of damage at its facilities and infrastructure.

A magnitude-5.0 earthquake struck near Cushing, Okla., between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, on Sunday night, Nov. 6, 2016. (Video by Oliver Morrison / The Wichita Eagle)

FEMA explains what you should do before an earthquake happens and when it occurs in an animated video called "When The Earth Shakes."

Oliver Morrison: 316-268-6499, @ORMorrison

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