Unusually strong earthquake rattles Lone Star State

Small earthquakes are not uncommon in Texas, but larger events are rare.

A magnitude-5.4 earthquake rattled much of Texas Wednesday afternoon, leaving seismologists wondering what triggered the event.

The earthquake was centered near the town of Toyah, which is about 160 miles east of El Paso.

Shaking was reported in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and many other communities west of I-35.

According to the United States Geological Survey, earthquakes are not rare in West Texas but seldom rise to the level of being felt by humans.

"In general, we do have a lot of little quakes which are due to fracking," a USGS seismologist said. "This is not a classic area for a big earthquake, but it is an area we do see events almost daily."

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Quakes caused by oil fracking are known as "induced earthquakes" as opposed to "natural earthquakes" which are triggered by plate tectonics.

"During fracking, the reinjection of fluids underground will add pressure to a fault and enable shaking," the USGS said.

Experts in Texas will send data to the USGS for further examination to help determine whether Wednesday’s event was fracking induced or if the shaking was due to plate tectonics.

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There were no initial reports of damage around the quake’s epicenter or in other regions of Texas.

According to USGS records, the earthquake ranks in the top echelon of strongest ever to impact the state.

A magnitude-6.0 earthquake that rumbled near the town of Valentine, Texas, in 1931 holds the record for being the largest.

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