There was a time when only three things shook the ground in Oklahoma: a tornado, a cattle stampede or a home football victory over Nebraska.
But that changed dramatically this year when seismic activity in central Oklahoma suddenly spiked off the charts.
Exponential increase in quakes
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Sooner State has suddenly jumped from earthquake so-not spot to hot spot, with more than 500 quakes registering greater than 3.0 magnitude so far this year -- 150 in one week alone. The USGS says that continues a trend that saw earthquake activity in central Oklahoma increase from an average of one to three per year between 1975 and 2008 to 40 per year between 2009 and 2013.
Scientists suspect that the increased number of injection wells drilled deep underground to store toxic wastewater from oil and gas production, including "fracking," has resulted in the growing stampede of Oklahoma quakes along naturally occurring fault lines.
Quake insurance recommended
When the state exceeded its earthquake average tenfold in the first two months of the year, the Oklahoma insurance commissioner, John Doak, was quick to recommend earthquake insurance to state residents. And that, in turn, set off a bit of a quake itself in a state where less than 1 percent of the homes are covered for shaky ground.
The good news for Oklahomans is that an earthquake endorsement is relatively cheap, averaging $100 to $150 per year, according to Doak.
The bad news is, there's a lockout period for earthquake endorsements to homeowners insurance that prevents insurers from adding quake coverage to a policy until the aftershocks die down. That lockout period can extend anywhere from 30 to 90 days and varies by insurer, based on the magnitude of the quake.
Not a bad idea
Given the alarming increase in seismic activity in central Oklahoma and the likelihood that it will continue if it is, in fact, being caused by wastewater injection well drilling, Oklahomans would be wise to consider adding earthquake coverage to their policies.
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus.
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