Don McAlavy: Local Columnist
Clovis recorded earthquakes in 1925, 1931 and 1935.
At 5:17 a.m., July 30, 1925, Clovis felt a tremor originating from an earthquake which registered 4.2 on the Richter scale.
Its epicenter was just northeast of Amarillo. Clovis felt two distinct shocks in 30 seconds. Buildings were badly shaken and dishes were jarred from shelves, but no great damage was reported.
The 1931 quake came from the Big Bend of Texas.
The quake on Dec. 19, 1935, however, originated at Clovis.
Even so, split wallpaper and cracks in a wall of a creamery were the only real damage.
The closest fault to Clovis appears to be the Bonita Fault, which runs in a southwest-to-northeast direction and is located halfway between Clovis and Tucumcari.
Not many people realize that under Amarillo and part of the
Panhandle are mountains that can cause earthquakes. Another cause could be from the drilling of gas and oil wells in the Panhandle.
In 1903, Charles N. Gould, a geologist, was commissioned by the Hydrographic Branch of the U.S. Geological Survey to investigate the geology and underground water resources west of Indian Territory and east of the Rocky Mountains. This included the Canadian River drainage area in Texas.
Many aspiring oilmen sought his services after he opened a consulting office in Oklahoma City. The oilmen were asking if there were any possible drilling sites near Amarillo.
Gould remembered the anticlines, or domes, he had surveyed along the Canadian River and agreed to examine them. His reports led to the drilling of the Panhandle’s first gas well on the Masterson’s ranch in 1918. Later Gould located a drill site (Gulf No. 2) and in 1920 resulted in the Panhandle’s first successful oil well, in Carson County. The success of Gould’s findings led to the Panhandle oil boom of the 1920s.
Gould continued his geological studies of the Panhandle, leading him to coin the term “Amarillo Mountains” in 1922 for the buried granite ridge extending northwest from the Wichita Mountains across the Panhandle into New Mexico. Gould died in 1949.
Since 1907, and up until 2000, the Amarillo area has felt a total of 27 quakes, 15 of which were from the Panhandle.
Most of the quakes have occurred since the drilling of gas and oil in the Panhandle.
What geologists tell us is that quakes in the Panhandle are minor and not even that unusual for the area. They say the quakes have only ranged from 2.5 to 3.9 since 1980, but others hit the Richter Scale at 5.2 (1948) and 5.5 (in 1952).
Residents of Big Springs, Texas, after one quake shook there, called the police dispatcher asking what to do about the earthquakes.
Others, in a possible cover-up, said “earthquakes in California, Wyoming, and Montana have been doing great damage, and it is presumed that the tremors felt here in Texas came from that section of the country. In 1974 one man told a newspaper reporter that “We’ve never had anything like this in the Panhandle before.”
With sarcasm one newspaper reporter quoted: “Nothing less than a first-class city is entitled to an earthquake, in this region, where earthquakes are scarce. We wish it distinctly understood that one-horse towns like Clarksville set up no claims to this sort of eminence.”
This was in a north Texas quake in 1882.
Let us beware that mother nature can rattle the countryside no
matter where you live. For the moment, no earthquakes have ever hit Florida.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: