Is Wednesday's earthquake a sign of things to come in Tennessee?

Published: Dec. 12, 2018 at 4:29 AM EST
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The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 4.4 earthquake struck eastern Tennessee and could be felt as far away as Atlanta.

The light earthquake occurred Wednesday around 4:14 a.m. about 7 miles (11 kilometers) northeast of Decatur. About 13 minutes later, a 3.3 magnitude aftershock then struck.

A second and third aftershock, registering 1.3 and 1.4 magnitudes respectively, was felt at 5:00 a.m. and 5:41 a.m.

This is not the first earthquake that East Tennesseans have felt in recent months.

, Maryville was hit with several.

This is leaving many wondering: is this the sign of things to come?

WVLT spoke to a local geology expert to discuss this earthquake and the possibility of such events occurring in the future.

Dr. Richard Williams, a geology professor at the University of Tennessee, is just one of many Tennesseans who felt Wednesday's quake, but he has special insight into it.

"It woke me up," he told WVLT News anchor Brittany Tarwater, "Pretty rude."

Despite the fact that this quake was the second largest in the region, Williams said it was normal.

"This is a pretty normal occurrence," he told Tarwater. He remembers an earthquake of comparable size happening in the 70s.

"When you have an earthquake this size every 45 years or so, you tend not to remember from one event to the next," Williams said.

When asked if residents should be alarmed, Williams quieted any potential fears.

"Earthquakes of this size are to be expected here. They're rare, but not unknown, and maybe every 40, 50 years, something like that."

"We do get a lot of smaller earthquakes, and it's controversial whether we could actually get a bigger earthquake or not...we could, but the likelihood of it seems pretty remote," he continued.

"A 4.4 is not going to do any damage," Williams said. "It might knock a picture or two off the wall, something like that."

There did not appear to be any immediate reports of injuries in this instance. However, the USGS said it received approximately 6,000 reports from people saying they felt the earthquake from as far away as 250 miles. Reports came from surrounding states Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama.

The Tennessee Valley Authority reported on Twitter there was no initial damage to any of its facilities, and personnel are conducting further inspections as a precaution.

WVLT meterologist Heather Haley said Wednesday morning's earthquake is the second strongest to hit East Tennessee, according to the USGS.

The strongest on record was a 4.7 magnitude earthquake in Blount County in 1973. There have been only three earthquakes recorded by the USGS in East Tennessee that were magnitude 4 or greater.

WVLT reporter Sara Wilder visited a seismograph at Tuckaleechee Caverns in Blount County, which recorded data on the earth quake as well.