Did somebody mention something about earthquakes?
Five tremors centered around Jay and Century this month have rattled the area, but not residents.
“They don’t bother me,” said Houston Kelly, who has spent his entire 41 years living in the rural town in northern Santa Rosa County. “It’s just the Earth changing.”
No one in the area along the Florida-Alabama border reported feeling the earth move.
The United States Geological Survey recorded the recent activity. However, the Richter scale levels between 2.2 and 3.1 in magnitude are too weak to cause any damage or injuries.
The USGS said the first earthquake shook Northwest Florida on March 7. It reached 2.7 in magnitude between Jay and Century, which are eight miles apart on State Road 4, which runs parallel to the Florida-Alabama line. The last quake occurred Sunday and recorded 2.7 in magnitude in Damascus, Alabama, about 27 miles north of Jay
Justin Rubinstein, a USGS research geophysicist, said residents should have no fear of an earthquake at a catastrophic 7.5 to 8 level, calling it “probably improbable.”
Still, the USGS and University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information want to find out what’s causing the unusual cluster in the area. Memphis officials just installed seismic stations in the area to transmit data directly to the geological survey center in Golden, Colorado.
Researchers theorize that the Jay oil field could be to blame, but they don’t know for sure. The rural town of Jay produces cotton, peanuts, soybeans and hay, and also 330 million barrels of oil since 1970.
The Northwest Florida-South Alabama area has a history of earthquakes. The strongest one reached 4.8 in magnitude in 1997 near Flomaton, Alabama, just nine miles west of Jay.
“That will occur again, I just can’t say when that will be,” Rubinstein said.
Meanwhile, residents continue to go about their daily lives. Many first heard about the tremors in their community on the news, Facebook or by word of mouth.
“We don’t think about them because we haven’t felt them,” said Susan Kleiner, a retired administrative assistant.
Trent Ledbetter has lived in Jay for 14 years and works at a nearby chemical plant. “I’m not too worried about them right now,” he said.
But Carley Sanders said she would choose a hurricane over an earthquake any day. Before this month, the 17-year-old lifelong Jay resident still wore diapers when the last earthquake hit the area in 2003 near Atmore, Alabama, about 23 miles east of Jay.
“I can run from a hurricane,” she said.