5.0 Earthquake Hits Nation's Largest Hub for Oil Storage

by | November 7, 2016

By Matt Dinger and Adam Wilmoth

The fifth strongest earthquake to hit Oklahoma came Sunday night about 7:44 p.m., rattling people's nerves and shaking buildings across central Oklahoma.

The 7:44 p.m. temblor, with an initial reported magnitude of 5.3, was centered about a mile west of Cushing in Payne County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which later downgraded the magnitude to 5.0.

No injuries were immediately reported, but there was damage to some buildings in downtown, Cushing police reported.

The Cushing emergency manager was out immediately after the shaking stopped, assessing local buildings for damage, state emergency management spokeswoman Keli Cain said.

Amy Jones, who lives in Cushing, said, "There's lots of broken glass, things came off the walls, cabinet doors open, things coming off shelves. We have quite a bit of damage."

She said, "It was the loudest and longest (earthquake) that I have personally experienced. It was very, very long.

"It sure made itself known. It was very loud. You can feel it rolling in, but when it finally hit, it sounded like someone drove a very large truck into the side of the house."

Jones said a neighbor about a half-mile down the road from her place is staying in her vehicle in case of aftershocks. That neighbor lives in an older, three-story Victorian-style home, Jones said.

An employee at the Cushing power plant said outages were reported, but did not immediately have a number of affected customers

The Cimarron Towers apartments at 214 E Broadway in downtown Cushing were evacuated and the Stillwater office of the American Red Cross opened a shelter for displaced residents, Payne County Emergency Manager Jeff Kuhn told the Stillwater News-Press.

The shelter is at Cushing Youth Center, 7 S Little Ave. for anyone concerned about safety or damaged homes. It planned to provide cots, blankets and food at the shelter.

Jim Camoriano, a spokesman for State Farm Insurance, said the company is mobilizing and will be inspecting homes for damage.

Cushing Public Schools reported they will be closed Monday "to assess earthquake damage and ensure safety of our students."

Cushing is home to the country's largest commercial oil storage hub.

The storage tanks north and south of town held a combined 58.5 million barrels of oil as of Oct. 28. The oil is about 12 percent of the country's total commercial storage of almost 483 million barrels and is worth nearly $2.6 billion at current prices.

Known as the pipeline crossroads of America, Cushing also houses operations for many of the countries largest pipeline companies. Those lines run throughout the community, transporting oil between Cushing and other oil hubs throughout the country.

Immediately after the earthquake, employees at pipeline operator Enbridge Inc. shut down the company's two pipelines that lead into Cushing and the one Enbridge pipeline that leads out of Cushing, spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said Sunday night.

"We conducted visual inspections of the terminal and another visual inspection of the pipelines. There is no evidence of any release," Smith said. "We are in the process of restarting the lines and returning to normal operations."

Tulsa-based Magellan Midstream Partners shut down operations for inspection after the earthquake, spokesman Bruce Heine said.

"We did not encounter any damage associated with this evening's earthquake," Heine said Sunday night. "We expect to resume normal operations tomorrow."

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission also issued a statement Sunday night:

"The Oil and Gas Division (OGCD) of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) and the Oklahoma Geological Survey is working on evaluating the earthquake that struck in the Cushing area this evening, currently placed at a 5.0 magnitude," the statement said.

"The OCC's Pipeline Safety Department has been in contact with pipeline operators in the Cushing oil storage terminal under state jurisdiction and there have been no immediate reports of any problems. The assessment of the infrastructure continues."

In Oklahoma City, firefighters had not responded to any calls of injuries or damage, Battalion Chief Benny Fulkerson said. Cushing is 68 miles from Oklahoma City.

The strongest earthquake in Oklahoma was a 5.8 magnitude temblor that hit Pawnee on Sept. 3.

A 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit Prague on Nov. 5, 2011, and a 5.5 magnitude temblor was reported in El Reno on April 9, 1952.

(c)2016 The Oklahoman