The 'big one' always possible says UT earthquake expert

Image: MGN
Image: MGN
Published: Jan. 15, 2019 at 2:27 PM EST
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Have you felt the ground shaking in recent weeks? Early Monday morning, a 2.7 magnitude earthquake struck just before dawn near Maryville. That comes on the heels of a 4.3 quake several weeks ago.

Turns out, East Tennessee's ground shook a lot harder several centuries ago, and a 'big one' "could happen tomorrow," Dr. Bob E. Hatcher, Jr. said. He added that there's no indication that it will, but it's always a statistical possibility.

"There have been magnitude 6.5, seven, or even larger earthquakes here, in the last 10,000 years. But we've not had one in historical times."

Dr. Hatcher is an emeritus distinguished scientist at the University of Tennessee. He's been at UT for the last 32 years, studying earthquakes. Small tremors are not uncommon here but many of you have noticed them, with the USGS seismographs acting up lately.

"The people in west Tennessee can record 300 earthquakes in a month. And the people in California say that's a good weekend for us. So, here in East Tennessee, the rate of occurrence is even less than that. "

Knoxville and surrounding areas do not sit on a traditional plate boundary, what we often think of as causing tremors. Instead, we sit along the East Tennessee Seismic Zone. Most local earthquakes are 'weaker,' but some people will still feel the ground shaking if the magnitude is 2.5 or higher.