Magnitude 5.1 earthquake hits NC, most powerful quake state has seen in over 100 years

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake was reported in Sparta, North Carolina and felt across the Triangle at around 8 a.m. This is the largest earthquake North Carolina has seen since 1916. That earthquake was a magnitude 5.2.

Posted Updated

SPARTA, N.C. — The most powerful earthquake to hit North Carolina in more than 100 years shook the state this morning. The 5.1 magnitude quake rattled homes, businesses and residents at around 8 a.m. across the state.

According to the National Weather Service, this is the strongest earthquake to hit North Carolina since 1916. That quake was a 5.2 magnitude and hit Skyland in Buncombe County.

Sparta is located near the North Carolina-Virginia line in Alleghany County. It's 54 miles from Winston-Salem and 27 miles from Mount Airy.

According to officials and social media posts, people felt the effects of the earthquake across the Carolinas, in Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee.

The inside of 4 Brothers Store in Sparta was shaken, and items fell from the shelves after the earthquake.

Before the 5.1 earthquake, five other minor earthquakes were measured in the area. At around 1 a.m. Sunday morning, a 2.2 magnitude quake was measured.

The National Weather Service of Raleigh also tweeted there have been reports of three other earthquakes in Guilford, Randolph and Moore counties since 8 a.m.

History of earthquakes in our area

With the earthquake today, many people are remembering the earthquake the Triangle felt in 2011. That earthquake, a 5.8 magnitude, had its epicenter in Virginia. It was the biggest quake since Christopher Columbus' time according to experts.

Parts of the Pentagon, White House and Capitol and the monuments on National Mall were evacuated in Washington, D.C. The quake also panicked the New York Stock Exchange, where the Dow Jones average briefly dropped before rallying to post its biggest gain in two weeks.

In 1916, the quake that rocked Buncombe County threw chimneys to the ground and cracked window panes. People rushed to the streets, according to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

What the experts have to say

Del Bohnenstiehl, North Carolina State professor of marine, earth and atmospheric science said that this earthquake was a rare event.

"An earthquake like this is pretty unusual for North Carolina," he said.

He and other seismologists are only beginning to try to figure out how it happened. Their research could take years.

"There will be a lot of studies going on to figure out where this earthquake was -- the plane it was, that sort of thing," he said.

Right now, residents of Sparta should prepare for aftershocks, though they will be much smaller than the initial quake.

More seismometers will go out to measure if and when those shocks do happen, he said.

Related Topics


Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.