This morning the town of Harrah, OK was awoken in the middle of the night by a 4.1 magnitude earthquake and a couple of hours later just a little further to the west a 4.0 earthquake shook the region. This would be epic news just 10 years ago, seeing as how Oklahoma had basically no earthquakes in it's 100 year history. But, in the last five years it's been shaken consistently by small to mid-level earthquakes that are increasing in activity and sometimes in intensity.
I've felt some of these quakes myself. I felt one just as recently as last week, it woke me up at 4 a.m. and lasted for a few seconds. I felt one when I lived in western Oklahoma when a quake over 5.0 shook the region. I've even felt one at work that shook enough to make me think a forklift somehow drove into the wall.
I was talking to a buddy the other day who had just moved here about a year ago. He had always assumed Oklahoma had always had the quakes, just like tornadoes and drought. I had to tell him that wasn't the case. Up until 2008, we had basically no seismic activity and if you asked someone back then if they thought Oklahoma would ever experience an earthquake they would probably laugh. No one is laughing now.
A lot of people are beginning to believe it could be caused by hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking". It's really ironic since Oklahoma is one of the top oil and gas producing states, and some of the country's top oil and gas businesses reside here which contributes to the strong economy. So, it will be interesting to see what side of the fence people who are living through these quakes everyday will fall to as it affects people's homes, investments and general safety.
State officials have begun looking into the quakes and have ordered studies to be done to see if a determination can be made as to what is causing them. This is the first step to see if anything can be done to stop them. Until then, we'll all have to deal with the shaking along with the twisting skies. Oklahoma can be called a lot of things, but you can't say it isn't interesting around here.
I'm really not sure how it is for everyone else. Does the rest of the world see or read something when they are young that actually inspires or makes such an impression that it stays with them the rest of their lives? It happened to me. When I was young, around the age or 10 or 11 there was a mini-series that played on TBS that was about mountain men, emigrants on the Oregon Trail, cowboys and swindlers. It was the mini-series "Centennial" based on a book by the same name written by James Michener.
It first ran in 1978-79 on NBC when mini-series were all the rage. Shogun, Roots and other mini-series had run successfully but Centennial was different. It was thirteen episodes that spanned the beginning of the west and covering more than 200 years worth of history to what would be the present day (back then) fictitious town of Centennial, Colorado.
I first watched it in a subsequent run on TBS and was immediately hooked. Stories about the old west was already something I was interested in because I had already spent time in the Rocky Mountain west, and the story tied in neatly with the love I had started for the mountains. I had seen the Platte River that Pasquinel struggled so mightily to get his canoe to navigate. I had seen "Ft. John" in the series in real life, as Bent's Old Fort in southeast Colorado. I had seen the cliffs of western Nebraska and the names of the real life emigrants, and could immediately relate to Levi Zendt and his travels. As a boy this was as real as it could get for me. I soaked it up, and many other westerns that told a similar story, and I read the book as well. To this day it's one of the few novels I have read from start to finish.
It had a deep impact on how I saw the world. It had a strong message that Native Americans were not treated fairly by the U.S. Government. It had a strong message that the land was to be taken care of and not used up carelessly. It had a deep tie to history, even though it was fiction. You could see it in the characters, whether it was Maxwell Mercy breaking himself for the Indians while wearing an Army uniform, or in Alexander McKeag and his respect for the land. Honesty and respect trumped greed, corruption and carelessness. How could that not make an impact on a young kid?
I've watched the series many, many times over my adult life. The story is great and each time I watch it, it's like visiting old friends. I think it's a major reason why I prefer the wide open spaces to the big city, and can see a sea of beauty on the prairie where others might only see a lot of grass. It had a lot to do why I'd rather have an untouched land vs having fences and wind turbines everywhere. It helped develop the respect I have for Native Americans and their story, and has a hand in me seeing the West as it should be seen.
It's about 35 years old now. Many of the actors have passed on, and it would look very dated to someone who is just now watching it. But the story remains the same, and the message also carries on. "The Earth isn't something you take from without ever thinking of giving back. The Earth is something you protect everyday of the year, a river is something you defend every inch of it's course." What a great message.
June 3rd, 2014 was the fourth chase day on our four day tour of the northern plains was a case of saving the best for last, at least in terms of quality of setups. A moderate risk was out for the afternoon, with a warm front hovering across Central Nebraska and feeding moisture to the north with dewpoints reaching the 70's in some cases. Storms were expected to be explosive, firing quickly and just turning tornadic just as fast. We reached Grand Island early in the afternoon and worked our way up to Loup, Nebraska waiting for storms to form. Finally by 3pm storms started to go up just north of Ord, although it was a messy storm on radar. We decided to wait for other storms to form. And waited. And waited some more. After a while it became apparent that it would be the only storm there would be to chase, and it also became apparent we would have a hard time staying in front of it because it was screaming to the southeast at 50 mph. It became a large linear rotating storm with no structure, and very low clouds that you could almost jump up to touch. It was a nasty storm, and if you were going to see a tornado (which had a pretty good chance of producing) you would have to be very close and that could prove perilous. Once met the storm just south of Ord, we immediately dropped to the south to stay ahead, then moving east along with it only to get sideswiped by intense winds and blinding rain. The fear that a rain wrapped tornado lurked in the rain was very real, and a couple of times we thought we might get caught up in an atmospheric blender. For a good 15 minutes heading east we got blasted, and it was one of the more intense moments in the last couple of years for me. Finally we reached a southward highway and reached a point we felt more safe, and watched the storm keeping our distance somewhat. I got a few photos from this chase, but the speed of the storms prevented most of opportunities I would normally have. Here is what I captured:
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