5.1 magnitude earthquake in Sparta strongest to hit NC in 100 years

Many felt the earth shake Sunday morning. A 5.1 magnitude earthquake hit Sparta, North Carolina.
USGS confirms magnitude 5.1 earthquake in Sparta N.C.
USGS confirms magnitude 5.1 earthquake in Sparta N.C.(WVLT)
Published: Aug. 9, 2020 at 11:04 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -Many felt the earth shake Sunday morning. A 5.1 magnitude earthquake hit Sparta, North Carolina.

It was the strongest earthquake to hit the state in more than 100 years.

WVLT Meteorologist Ben Cathey learned from experts that there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding it.

The earthquake and it’s aftershocks are more than 150 miles from Knoxville. If the quake would’ve happened closer to the city, it would be the strongest tremor ever measured in East Tennessee.

If it sounds like an odd place for a quake, you’re right!

“It’s in a place where we’ve never seen frequent earthquakes before,” said University of Tennessee professor emeritus and Seismologist, Dr. Bob Hatcher. “It’s different. It is not close to any of the nearby seismic zones.”

Dr. Hatcher said his wife woke him up Sunday, with a lot of questions after watching the news.

“So this is an oddity. We don’t relate it to anything right now,” said Hatcher.

The seismologist said there’s no obvious cause and it was much shallower than the weak tremors we feel here in East Tennessee.

Hatcher explained that when you compare earthquakes of equal magnitude – they can be felt farther away in the southeast than somewhere like California.

“The crust in the western U.S. is more broken up with modern faults and more active faults, and that sort of thing. But we don’t have this broken up crust, so an earthquake of this magnitude will be felt farther away,” said Hatcher.

For over a decade, Hatcher’s team – many of whom work for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) now – have been looking at earth-shakers before there were any people around to feel them.

“We have found very clear evidence that we’ve had larger earthquakes here in East Tennessee, probably 6.5 or larger or 7 in pre-historic times. Say in the last 10,000 years or so,” said Hatcher.

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