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5.1-magnitude quake rattles many in Southwest Virginia

5.1-magnitude quake rattles many in Southwest Virginia

Sparta NC earthquake map

An earthquake of magnitude 5.1, centered near Sparta, North Carolina, just south of the Virginia state line, shook many residents of Southwest Virginia shortly after 8 a.m. Sunday.

Many residents of the Roanoke and New River valleys, and to the south and southwest, reported feeling the quake on social media. The quake was centered just southeast of Sparta at 8:07 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey, at a depth of about 2 1/4 miles. A quake of 2.6 magnitude was reported in the same area just before 2 a.m.

There were no immediate reports of significant damage. Only very light damage, such as cracks in walls or some items shaken off shelves or tables, is expected with a quake of this magnitude.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports there is a 57% chance of one or more aftershocks of at least 3 magnitude and a 5% chance of another 5 magnitude or stronger quake in the next week centered near the same location.

Quakes occasionally occur in the Appalachian mountains, where folds of rock contain many small fault lines. A 3.2-magnitude quake occurred north of Pearisburg in 2017, and Giles County was the center of a 5.6-magnitude quake in 1897.

Virginia's biggest earthquake of recent times occurred east of the Blue Ridge, in Louisa County, on August 23, 2011, measured at 5.8 magnitude. That quake was felt up and down the East Coast and produced many lesser aftershocks.

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Since 2003, Kevin Myatt has penned the weekly Weather Journal column, and since 2006, the Weather Journal blog, which becomes particularly busy with snow. Kevin has edited a book on hurricanes and has helped lead Virginia Tech students on storm chases.

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