The earth came tumbling down

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5.0 earthquake leaves downtown in shambles

By Jim Perry

Managing Editor

Thirty-six hours after the fact, Cushing was doing its best to overcome.
One could almost close their eyes and hear a black minstrel choir singing in the rubble.
“We shall overcome.”
“We want to assure our residents that we are doing everything we can,” City Manager Steve Spears said during the second of two press conferences inside City Hall. “Service crews of engineers are coming into town but it will be a day or two before all is fully assessed.”
“I am happy to say Oklahoma FEMA is here. We hope they will give us some money.”
Spears, Assistant City Manager Jeremy Frazier and Cushing Police Chief Tully Folden were on hand for a press conference about 10 p.m. Sunday, barely more than two hours after a 5.0-magnitude earthquake — its epicenter is northwest of Cushing — rocked the city, especially the age-old downtown area.
Cushing Fire Chief Chris Pixler joined the other three for another press conference on Monday morning.
It was during the second press conference that Spears predicted — correctly — that voting would take place in the lobby of City Hall, just north of the downtown area at 100 Judy Adams Blvd.
The area between Noble and Seay avenues and Moses and Second Streets was cordoned off to the general public, Folden said.
Folden said officers from the Shawnee Police Department and the Sac and Fox Tribal Police “have provided officers to assist us.”
He warned citizens, “If you don’t have any business being downtown, please stay away.
“I know everybody wants to see the damage but — please! — stay away.”
Pixler said only one injury was reported and that pipeline companies were handling the earthquake on their own.
“A gentleman walked into the safety center with a laceration to his arm and he said he had no idea how it got it,” Pixler said.
Frazier said the quaked “scared me like crazy.”
“I’d never felt one before I came here.”
Power in many parts of town was off for about two hours, Mike Harris, superintendent of the Cushing Electric Department, said.
Frazier said city officials had contacted the crude oil tank farms and “they report no damage at this time.”
“There are a few gas leaks but nothing major,” Frazier said.
School was closed Monday while education officials cleaned schools of debris. Classes resumed Tuesday morning.
Fourteen residents of Cimarron Tower were evacuated Sunday night and lodged on cots in the gymnasium at Cushing Youth and Community Center, which also suffered damage.
Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday morning issued a state of emergency for Payne County.
Fallin’s executive order allows state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness. The declaration also marks a first step toward seeking federal aid, should it be necessary.
Under the executive order, the state of emergency lasts for 30 days. Additional counties may be added, if needed, a spokesman for the governor said.
State emergency management officials swarmed into Cushing and asked residents to submit photos of earthquake damage to their homes or businesses through the OK Emergency mobile application.
Cushing Water Department at about noon Monday closed down State Highway 18 north of Carson Street. A water main beneath the highway was ruptured by the earthquake.
It was repaired and the roadway reopened by Tuesday morning.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation said no highway or bridge damage was found within a 15-mile radius of the earthquake’s epicenter.
The quake struck at 7:44 p.m. Sunday and was felt as far away as Iowa, Illinois and Texas. The U.S. Geological Survey initially said Sunday’s quake was of magnitude 5.3 but later lowered the reading to 5.0.
“I thought my whole trailer was going to tip over, it was shaking it so bad,” said Cushing resident Cindy Roe.
“It was awful and I don’t want to have another one.”
Spears said 40 to 50 buildings in the downtown area suffered “substantial damage.” He defined that as “a lot of cracks one-quarter of an inch to one-half an inch wide.”
He praised Bob Noltensmeyer and the Cushing Emergency Management Department.
“They have handled things very well,” Spears said.
The damage to downtown, he said, is a result of aged buildings.
“Most were built around 1900,” he said. “The foundation system is different than what we would use now.
“In 1900, we didn’t even consider earthquakes.”
That has changed for north-central Oklahoma, he said.
According to USGS data, there have been about two dozen earthquakes in Oklahoma in the past week. A 5.8 earthquake — a record for Oklahoma — hit Pawnee on Sept. 3.
“I felt my house sway,” Spears said. “I guess nothing surprises you anymore. It becomes more and more normal.”