A strong magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck near Sparta, North Carolina at 8:07 am today and USGS is warning that more earthquakes are likely here in the coming days.
Today’s quake originated at a depth of about 2.3 miles and was felt across a broad area from central Tennessee to eastern North Carolina, and from central Virginia to northern South Carolina. More than 80,000 people reported to USGS that they felt the quake.
Quakes of this magnitude often create aftershocks and USGS says additional earthquakes after this morning’s 5.1 are likely. USGS scientists say that this event will trigger aftershocks, they will decrease in frequency over time.
Officially, the latest USGS forecast says the chance of an earthquake of magnitude 3 or higher is 45%, and it is most likely that as few as 0 or as many as 11 such earthquakes may occur in the case that the sequence is re-invigorated by a larger aftershock. The chance of an earthquake of magnitude 5 or higher is 1 %; such an earthquake is possible but with a low probability. The chance of an earthquake of magnitude 6 or higher is 1 in 600, such an earthquake is possible but with a low probability. The chance of an earthquake of magnitude 7 or higher is 1 in 6,000, such an earthquake is possible but with an even lower probability.
USGS also cautions about its forecasts. “No one can predict the exact time or place of any earthquake, including aftershocks. Our earthquake forecasts give us an understanding of the chances of having more earthquakes within a given time period in the affected area. We calculate this earthquake forecast using a statistical analysis based on past earthquakes,” USGS wrote in a statement.
According to the USGS database, the 5.1 magnitude earthquake near Sparta this morning is the second strongest earthquake to occur in North Carolina since 1900. The strongest was a 5.2 magnitude earthquake near Skyland in February 1916.