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Cleburne Quakes Rattle Some Residents

Downtown Cleburne

By BJ Austin, KERA News

Dallas, TX – Three earthquakes in a week have rattled Cleburne-area residents. KERA's BJ Austin says the quakes didn't do any damage but residents are wondering what's going on beneath the Texas prairie, southwest of Fort Worth.

Cleburne 9-1-1 started getting calls about the latest earthquake shortly after 8 Monday morning .

911 calls: Cleburne Police Department: Hi, did you guys get another report of another earthquake. Ah, we're starting to get calls now. What is your address? I live out here at Rolling Oaks, and I thought my house was gonna shake off the foundation, it was so bad.

The third earthquake was less than 24 hours after the second. The first was last Tuesday. They ranged from 2.8 to 2.3 on the Richter scale. Cleburne Mayor Ted Reynolds says there hasn't been any damage and the U.S. Geological Survey tells him the small quakes are not big deal. But, they are a unique event for Cleburne as far as he can remember and something of mystery.

Reynolds: I've actually lived in the area, in Johnson County, since 1975 and as far as I know from talking to local historians, as far as we know we've never had an earthquake anywhere close to here before. They're barely perceptible. In fact, with all these quakes, certain parts of town could feel them. Certain parts couldn't. I don't know that there's concern. People are just anxious to know if we can find a reason for them.

At a downtown Cleburne diner, resident Jack O'Dell offers a suggestion of where to look for a possible reason.

O'Dell: With all the drilling they've had going on and everything, it makes you think, what's the reason for it? What's the cause of it, you know three in a row like that.

But, SMU Professor of Earth Sciences, Brian Stump is not so sure gas drilling on Barnett Shale has any connection.

Stump: Even if it was related to the Barnett Shale, the little events probably are naturally occurring stresses that are in the crust that are being relieved. And I would say little stresses. These are really small events. I will say, though, and not for this application, but there are places where infrequently when people have either injected fluids into the crust or extracted fluids, they have triggered small earthquakes: infrequently and small. And I can't rule out that that might not be going on here. But certainly we don't have enough information to say one way or the other.

Stump does say it's important to gain some perspective on the Cleburne quakes and those last fall and last month in the Mid-cities/Irving area. He says there are roughly 100 thousand magnitude three earthquakes around the world each year and a MILLION magnitude two. It generally takes a FIVE before damage occurs.

For some Cleburne residents the quakes were cause for alarm others took it stride.

Residents: It brought them out of their homes; out of their homes and into their yards. All their neighbors are out there at the same time. A lot of people thought it was vehicles that had hit their houses or something. It was that that kind of jolt. The first quake, I was sitting in my office and didn't feel it. My son was at my house and it was rattling the plates on the wall. I thought perhaps it was a sonic boom. It just jarred the chairs we were sitting in, that's all. It was over quicker than you can tell about it.

Stump says it's a big deal HERE because earthquakes just don't happen as frequently in the geologically stable part of the U.S., which includes Texas.

Email BJ Austin