Magnitude 5.1 earthquake rattles N.C, Virginia border

USGS earthquake map

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake rattled the western North Carolina/Virginia border Sunday morning, and was widely felt across both states.

The U.S. Geological Survey “Did You Feel It?” map reported the temblor centered in Sparta, N.C., was felt as far away as Newport News, Virginia, Charlotte, Raleigh and into Northern Virginia.

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

There are no immediate reports of injuries, but there is some minor damage in the town of about 1,800 people, he said.

The 8:07 a.m. earthquake was preceded by at least four small foreshocks ranging from 2.1-2.6 in magnitude, beginning about 25 hours prior to the earthquake Sunday morning, according to the USGS.

Large earthquakes are relatively uncommon in the region, officials said.

“Moderately damaging earthquakes strike the inland Carolinas every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt about once each year or two,” according to the USGS report.

In the past century, one earthquake with at magnitude 5 and larger occurred within 62 miles of the area — a magnitude 5.2 in the Great Smoky Mountains in 1916.

The largest recent earthquake to impact the East Coast was the magnitude 5.8 in Mineral, Virginia in 2011 that cracked the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral.

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Kari Pugh is digital director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach her at [email protected]