No damage to Oklahoma mills from earthquakes

by Josh Sosland
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SHAWNEE, OKLA. — The flour mills of Shawnee Milling Co. sustained no damage when the state was struck by two shakings in less than 24 hours.

The second and stronger of the earthquakes, preliminarily estimated as a 5.6 magnitude quake, struck at 10:53 p.m. on Saturday night, Nov. 5. The epicenter was just east of Sparks, Okla., only 24 miles north of Shawnee. Shawnee Milling’s second mill, in Okeene, is about 120 miles northwest of Sparks.

“There was no damage to the mills or businesses in the state, but many of the homes in the area experienced breakage, glass broken in kitchens,” said William L. Ford, president of Shawnee Milling. “A tower at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee was badly damaged.”

Mr. Ford said he and his wife had spent the day in Norman Saturday, watching a University of Oklahoma football game with classmates marking the 50th anniversary since they entered the school.

“We were back at home after the game, and I had just climbed into bed when the earthquake hit,” Mr. Ford. “I got out of bed and couldn’t move across the room. The quake the night before hit at about 2 a.m. while we were sound asleep. It was a 4.4 magnitude quake. Everything was shaking, and when my wife woke her first thought was that someone had broken into the house and was in our room. I’ve lived here my entire life and have never experienced anything like it.

“The main thing is no one was hurt by these earthquakes so far as I know. After two quakes in two days, everyone is a bit on edge, waiting for another shoe to drop. There’s just a bit of remaining anxiety.”

The earthquakes had a compounding effect on a state that has struggled for longer than a year with severe drought, Mr. Ford said.

Wheat production in Oklahoma was down sharply in 2011, and the corn crop was devastated. Cattle numbers are off sharply, Mr. Ford said. He said Shawnee Milling has been fortunate in that the quality of the 2011 wheat crop has been excellent, even though the crop size has been small.

Temperatures over the summer hit the highest levels ever in Shawnee, reaching 115 degrees.

“Everyone watched out for each other at the mill, and we never missed a beat,” Mr. Ford said.

The earthquakes amid the drought have created a feeling of “what’s next” in Oklahoma, he said. On the other hand portions of the state received up to four inches of rain early Nov. 7, creating hope that the worst has passed, he added.

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