Monday, March 11, 2013

Dealing with a New Natural Disaster

I live in Oklahoma, the heart of tornado alley. My friends and family that don't live around here always get really worried when they hear we are under a tornado watch but it rarely phases those of us that have always lived here.

I've always said Oklahoma is one of the safest places to be during a tornado. We have the best warning systems in the world, I have a siren right down the street from me and shelters are common around here.

I know in some places sirens go off as soon as there is a warning in that county but here they only go off if your town is threatened. Last year was a record low year for tornadoes in Oklahoma, there were no storms to produce them as we are in a really bad drought, but a couple of years ago they went off while I was at a chiropractor appointment. Several of us were laying on tables getting some treatments and not a single person got up. Someone in the waiting room went outside and looked around and said it looked fine. We turned on the radio and no one freaked or really did much of anything else. I think a few texts got sent.

I got kind of worried when the radio said where the possible tornado was because it wasn't far from where my husband would be driving home from work. I got ahold of him and he had seen cops go speeding past him and there was a lot of rain and some small hail but it seemed okay. Turns out the tornado was in the town where he works and he had left just in time, though it didn't really do much damage.

But Oklahoma now has to deal with a different natural disaster, one we aren't prepared for, earthquakes. Before 2010 the average number of earthquakes per year was 35, in 2010 Oklahoma had 1,000 earthquakes, 2012 we had 1,400. In 2011 we had a 5.6 earthquake, the largest ever recorded in Oklahoma. Most Oklahomans didn't even have earthquake insurance or have a clue what to do during the earthquakes. At least one person was injured because they ran out of their house during the earthquake, something people that are used to them know not to do.

With such a huge increase in earthquakes people are of course asking questions. Many want to blame hydraulic fracturing, as known as fracking, but studies point to another cause. The disposal wells used in natural gas and oil drilling are thought by some to be the possible cause. Several studies show links and many geophysicists believe that could be the cause. They are struggling to get answers though as the industry doesn't have to provide the pressure measurements the geophysicists need to farther study the link. Until they can get this information it's unlikely we can know for sure if disposal wells are causing the earthquake increase, but for now it seems likely.

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