Nemaha Fault Splits Central Oklahoma

Thursday, November 10th 2011, 10:30 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The fault that produced this weekend's earthquakes isn't the only one that runs through Oklahoma.

There's another one that runs right through Oklahoma City. We can thank the geographic feature for the major oil fields in the area, but it's also making homeowners a bit nervous after learning they're living on shaky ground.

Three to five miles beneath the surface sits the Nemaha fault, starting southeast of Oklahoma City.  It runs north through Kansas all the way to Lincoln, Nebraska.

"Think of it as a zone and not a single fault," explains Dr. Kenneth Luza who has been studying it since 1978. "That zone can be several miles wide."

That zone would go underneath the State Capitol and right near the Devon tower. Still, even though the 1952 El Reno Quake has been blamed on the shifting of the Nemaha fault, Dr. Luza says he doesn't know of any significant earthquakes right along the fault line.

He says quakes within the past few years near Midwest City and Jones would be off-structure.

"Most of the earthquake activity we have in our state is associated with unknown faults buried in the deep subsurface," said Dr. Luza.

So his advice for those along the fault line worried that this could be them: "I would be more concerned about tornadoes."

Dr. Luza says the probability of an earthquake along the fault would be low. In contrast, the chances of an earthquake in California would be very high.

Dr. Luza also says it's been a couple hundred million years since the fault moved enough to rupture the surface and create a big crack like we see in the movies.