Earthquake: USGS may upgrade magnitude based on intensity

Several buildings were damaged by Saturday's 5.6 magnitude earthquake, including this one which is more than 100 years old. The USGS says Saturday's earthquake near Pawnee, Okla. was 10-percent stronger than the similar magnitude earthquake that hit Prague, Okla. in 2011. (Bill Schammert/KOKH)

The United States Geological Survey told FOX 25 it's discussing whether to upgrade the magnitude of Saturday's 5.6 magnitude earthquake near Pawnee, Okla. to a 5.7. Daniel McNamara, a geophysicist with the USGS, says the earthquake was 10-percent stronger than the 5.6 that hit Prague, Okla. in 2011. That would make Saturday's earthquake the strongest in recorded history in Oklahoma.

From Amarillo to St. Louis and Dallas to Omaha, Saturday's earthquake was felt across at least seven Midwest states. The epicenter was just north of Pawnee, Okla, a town of about 16,000 people.

Pawnee Co. Sheriff Mike Waters says he was feeding cattle when he felt the ground shake for about 45 seconds.

"The biggest thing is nobody was killed or seriously injured," Waters said. The only reported injury was a man who needed stitches after saving his son from a falling brick.

One of the hardest hit businesses was White's Foodliner, a grocery store on the northeast side of town. Employees say most aisles of the store were a foot high in product and supplies that had fallen off the shelves.

"We heard this boom and the whole building started shaking," Lorri Banta said.

Banta tells FOX 25 she had just walked into the store about ten minutes before the 7:02 a.m. earthquake.

"It was like somebody with a giant arm just swiped everything off the shelves," she said.

Throughout the morning, the store smelled like a mixture of insulation, syrup and bar-b-que sauce, but in true Oklahoma fashion, it was more than just employees who showed up to help.

"This place is important to the community," Meredith Ensign said. Ensign says she worked for the store years ago, and stopped by to help. "Pawnee needs this place to be open."

The store was cleaned up and open for business by 11:00 a.m. Saturday.

And on the morning of the first true college football game day of the year, it was also important for the liquor store to be in tip-top shape. The owner, Kris Venable, says it was a disaster when her husband and grandson first walked in.

"We sold a lot yesterday, so it's that much less that had to fall of the shelves," she joked.

Across town, most people were in good spirits. Some windows were blown out, plenty of homes and buildings sustained significant damage, but the people in this town know it could've been worse.

"What can you do besides clean up the mess and go on," Venable said.

McNamara reminded FOX 25 that it's important to look into the intensity of these large earthquakes because it's exponential. According to the USGS, a 5.6 magnitude earthquake is 250 times stronger than a 4.0.

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