5.1 magnitude earthquake reported in North Carolina, one of largest ever in state

Updated: Aug. 9, 2020 at 4:33 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A 5.1 magnitude earthquake was reported near Sparta, North Carolina on Sunday morning, and thousands of people in the Charlotte area felt the remnants of it.

It is one of the largest earthquakes ever reported in the state.

The quake was reported around 8:07 a.m., 2.6. miles away from Sparta. According to the United States Geological Survey, the epicenter was 36.8 miles from Boone and 46.1 miles from Lenoir.

Sparta is in Alleghany County, just east of Ashe County. There have been seven earthquakes around Sparta in the last two days.

USGS officials say at least 25,000 people have reported feeling the earthquake across Charlotte and surrounding areas.

Some of the hardest-hit areas were along Chestnut Grove Church Road in Gap Civil, North Carolina, a town in Alleghany County.

Cracks broke through concrete on the streets and businesses were damaged.

Some major businesses in Sparta received significant damage. Some of those businesses include: CJ hardware in Sparta: 124 Memorial Park Drive; 4 Brothers Food Stores: 2694 US Highway 21 S, Sparta; and Food Lion on Main Street in Sparta.

On Little River Drive, the earthquake caused house bricks to separate. The road buckled on Rivers Edge Road.

Earthquake near Sparta, NC.

Posted by WBTV News on Sunday, August 9, 2020

The earthquake was recorded at a depth of 3.7 kilometers. There’s no information on any damage or injuries sustained in this earthquake.

USGS says the largest earthquake in the N.C. area occurred in 1916. As referenced in the United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 1527, in 1916 there was a magnitude 5.2 earthquake, with an intensity of VII (7) on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale, near Skyland in Buncombe County.

Moderately damaging earthquakes strike the inland Carolinas every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt about once each year or two.

USGS’s Aftershock Forecast predicts aftershocks will continue to occur near the earthquake area.

“The USGS advises everyone to be aware of the possibility of aftershocks, especially when in or around vulnerable structures such as unreinforced masonry buildings,” the website reads.

According to the USGS forecast, over the next week, there is a 5 percent chance of one or more aftershocks that are larger than magnitude 5.1. If any aftershocks of this magnitude were to happen, it is most likely that as few as zero or as many as two such earthquakes may occur.

It is more likely that there will be smaller earthquakes over the next week.

The chance of an earthquake of magnitude 3 or higher is 57 percent, and it is most likely that as few as zero or as many as 57 such earthquakes may occur in the case that the sequence is re-invigorated by a larger aftershock.

It is likely that there will be smaller earthquakes over the next week, with as few as zero to as many as 57 magnitude 3 or higher aftershocks.

According to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, there have been a few strong earthquakes in the N.C. mountain region in the last 100 years.

Since at least 1776, people living inland in North and South Carolina, and in adjacent parts of Georgia and Tennessee, have felt small earthquakes and suffered damage from infrequent larger ones.

“A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt at many places as far as 100 km (60 mi) from where it occurred, and it infrequently causes damage near its source,” according to the USGS. “A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake usually can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from where it occurred, and sometimes causes damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi).”

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