Thu January 2, 2014
From Guymon to Poteau and Beyond: The Biggest StateImpact Stories of 2013
The StateImpact team traveled about 10,000 miles in 2013 to interview Oklahomans about how government policy affects their lives.
Our reporting took us to all corners of Oklahoma, across the border into Texas, and to the nation’s capital and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Drought had gripped the entire state by the beginning of 2013, and was a prominent focus of many of the year’s stories.
Oklahoma’s big fight with Texas over water in southeastern Oklahoma went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and StateImpact was there to hear the arguments in the case the Sooner State eventually won.
Another aspect of the drought that caught our attention was its effect on Oklahoma’s crumbling water infrastructure, particularly in small towns like Konawa, Okla., where the prospect of costly repairs and updates threaten the very existence of the community.
At the bottom of Konawa’s wells: The Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, perhaps the state’s most sensitive water resource. The underground water supply has been stressed not only by drought, but by sand and limestone mining, too.
StateImpact was on hand when the Oklahoma Water Resources Board finally put a limit on how much water mining companies — and anyone else — can displace from the aquifer so many towns rely on.
But the story we remember most came right to our doorstep — to Moore — in the form of a tornado destructive beyond description. For the next few months our focus shifted to the government’s role in natural disasters.
We asked why Oklahoma has prioritized spending federal money on individual storm shelters instead of shelters in schools, and why emergency managers are no longer interested in public community shelters, when they were a big focus in Cold War-era disaster planning.
StateImpact also examined state and local building codes, which don’t account for tornadoes, and used data to truth-test some of the popular myths surrounding twisters.
But throughout the year, another issue was making waves, seismic ones. Oklahoma is in the middle of an earthquake swarm, and scientists say it’s likely linked to oil and gas drilling.
StateImpact’s earthquake coverage was the most popular among readers, too. Our March 2013 story that detailed a new study linking Oklahoma’s quakes to disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry was the No. 1 most-viewed story on the site in 2013, and our interactive map of the earthquake swarm came in at No. 2.