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Earthquakes rattle Cushing residents, authorities shut down disposal wells

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A couple of big earthquakes rattled homes and nerves Friday in Payne County.

The seismic activity was so significant, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is shutting down some wells.

A 4.1 quake hit Cushing around 7:30 a.m.

Before that, a 3.5 quake hit around 4:15 a.m.

About an hour northeast of Oklahoma City, the town of Cushing remains the pipeline crossroads of the world.

Big steel storage tanks there house nearly 50 million barrels of black gold.

It’s not the ideal place to be during an earthquake.

“There’s a little bit of water on the top, and you could see the water shaking,” Candice Bayliss said.

Bayliss is an inspector and was working 60 feet above the ground on one of the oil storage tanks.

“I felt it, and I kind of braced myself, because I didn’t know what was happening, and you could hear all the tanks sound like big thunder out there,” Bayliss said.

Across town, debris fell from walls.

Homes were shaking.

“They need to stop the fracking, stop the drilling,” Pete Barnes said.

Barnes has lived in Cushing for 20 years.

He said all the rattling is taking a toll on his house.

“Right there, in the front, I have bricks on it. There’s probably a half inch gap on both sides," Barnes said. "Plaster wall is splitting, the kitchen ceiling is splitting."

We spoke with a number of oil companies about how the earthquakes could affect their oil facilities in Cushing.

They all said their plans in the case of a cracked tank or spill are confidential, but they’ve done extensive training with Cushing police.

As a result of the earthquakes, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission announced tow disposal wells will stop operations and three others will reduce their disposal volume.

Those plans could change as the commission monitors seismic activity.

This year, Oklahoma has had more than 600 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or greater.

That’s about the same as we had in 2014 for the whole year.

Analysts said they expect a big earthquake soon in the Guthrie, Langston and Stillwater areas.