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The ground shook, windows rattled and the North Texas town of Cleburne was dealt its sixth earthquake in less than a month.
The U.S. Geological Survey says the 10:30 p.m. Friday tremor registered a 2.2-magnitude and was centered about four miles east of the city.
Two other small tremors were felt in May, and three others hit the area in early June, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Cleburne officials are working with researchers from Southern Methodist University to determine if nearby gas drilling is causing the quakes.
FORT WORTH — Cleburne Mayor Ted Reynolds says he has some concerns after his community was hit by nine small earthquakes since May 16 — the most recent a 2.2 magnitude tremor late on Friday night.
"For the residents, it's probably more of a curiosity than anything else," he said, but added that there's an earthen dam at Lake Pat Cleburne that provides the city's water supply.
"We also have some old cast iron water and gas lines in our city," Reynolds said. "We just want to make sure that they're still safe."
SMU geologists have set up a series of portable seismic stations to monitor the underground rumblings, the most powerful of which was a 3.3 magnitude tremor recorded on May 16.
"I'm sure they got some preliminary data from the quake Friday night," Reynolds said. "I don't know exactly when that data will be available, but hopefully it'll really help us."
Reynolds acknowedged that some experts say natural gas well drilling could be contributing to the instability, while others dismiss any connection.
"We're probably just going to have to wait and see what information that the SMU folks get us, and then we'll just go from there," Reynolds said.
This area gets small quakes about every 10 years, said John Ferguson, a geosciences professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. Sixteen years ago, there was a similar event near Commerce. And in 1985, there was one near Valley View.
More earthquakes have happened in North Texas since last October than in the previous three decades combined, according to the USGA data.
In recent years, 170 gas wells have sprouted within the Cleburne city limits, although most are in industrial or commercial areas near the outskirts. Johnson County has nearly 2,000 gas wells.
Other counties, including Tarrant and Denton, have similar numbers of gas wells, but Cleburne has one of the densest concentrations in the area.
In all, 18 mild earthquakes have been detected in North Texas since late October, including tremors in Euless, Irving, Grand Prairie and Dallas.
The tremors were said to originate from 3 miles below the ground, while most of the drilling is occurring at about a 1-mile depth.
Dr. Larry Standlee, a geologist at the University of Texas at Arlington, also plans to do computer modeling based on the seismic data.
"Something is going on – exactly what, I'm not sure," Standlee said.