Rattled by quake aftershocks, Oklahoma now braces for storms
Aftershocks from two powerful weekend earthquakes centered in Oklahoma have continued to rattle the area, and weather experts warned that some of the same areas of the state were likely to be struck by dangerous thunderstorms and tornadoes Monday.
At least 17 aftershocks of magnitude 3 or greater have been recorded since the biggest quake of the weekend, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That record-setting 5.6 temblor occurred at 10:53 p.m. CDT on Saturday, with an epicenter in Sparks, Okla., about 55 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.
The quake, the state's strongest in recorded history, damaged 14 buildings and buckled a highway, but left only two people with minor injuries, emergency managers said Monday. It was felt as far away as Wisconsin and South Carolina, Reuters reported.
The largest aftershock, a 4.0 quake, was reported Sunday in Meeker, about 40 miles east of the capital.
Before the record-setting temblor, a 4.7 quake had hit earlier that same day, in the center of the state near the rural town of Prague. Two aftershocks of 3.3 and 3.4 were reported in that area late Sunday.
Researchers at the Oklahoma Geological Survey have set up additional seismographs along the fault where the quakes originated, called the Wilzetta fault or Seminole uplift. They warned nearby residents to expect more aftershocks.
Meanwhile, meteorologists at Accuweather predicted an outbreak of "potentially damaging" thunderstorms and tornadoes in the southern Plains on Monday.
"While spring is by far the most active time of the year for severe weather and tornadoes, there is a second severe weather season that develops in the fall," said Heather Buchman, an Accuweather meteorologist.
Hail-producing thunderstorms were expected in west-central Oklahoma and Texas on Monday morning, followed by numerous "violent thunderstorms" and possibly tornadoes later in the day, according to Accuweather.
The thunderstorms were expected to head east Monday night, toward Tulsa and McAlester, Okla.; Dallas and Austin, Texas.
On the plus side, the thunderstorms are expected to bring much-needed rain to parts of Texas and Oklahoma that continue to suffer from a long-running drought.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston
Photo: Maintenance workers inspect the damage to one of the spires on Benedictine Hall at St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, Okla., on Sunday. Two earthquakes in the area in less than 24 hours caused one of the towers to topple, and damaged the remaining three. Credit: Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press