Breaking News: 5.1-magnitude earthquake rattles North Carolina

Seismograph image.

A 5.1-magnitude earthquake shook northern North Carolina on Sunday morning. It’s the strongest quake to shake the state since 1916, according to the North Carolina Geological Survey.

SONAR Critical Events: North Carolina earthquake, Sunday, August 9, 2020

Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake struck around 8 a.m., and the epicenter was about 2.5 miles southeast of Sparta, North Carolina. Sparta is just south of the Virginia border, about 60 miles northwest of Winston-Salem.

The quake was felt as far away as South Carolina and Georgia, according to social media posts. The USGS received reports from more than 300 miles away, in Atlanta.

“It felt like a big locomotive going by and a big wave coming underneath the bed,” Sparta Mayor Wes Brinegar told CNN Sunday. “A big wave coming to lift you.”

There are currently a few reports of minor damage in Sparta. No injuries have been reported.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and have never felt anything like that,” Brinegar said. 

The USGS says earthquakes can become destructive at a magnitude of 4.0 to 5.0, depending on variables such as the depth of the quake. The USGA considers a 5.3-magnitude as moderate. This earthquake rumbled at a depth of about 5.7 miles, which is considered a shallow quake. Quakes shallower than 43 miles tend to be more destructive than deeper ones.

Aftershocks are likely near the epicenter in the coming days.

“When there are more earthquakes, the chance of a large earthquake is greater, which means that the chance of damage is greater,” USGS scientists said. “According to our forecast, over the next week there is a 4% chance of one or more aftershocks that are larger than magnitude 5.1.”

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