A look back at past earthquakes in North Carolina

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SPARTA, N.C. (WNCN) – The Asheville Expositor in 1874 documented an earthquake in Bald Mountain.

“A number of persons along this river say the rumblings and other impressions from the shocks were quite severe and terrible,” it said.

Then, in 1916, the Asheville Times reported that an earthquake that hit the city caused excitement in the town.

“The telephone operators were unusually busy for a while connecting seekers for information with police headquarters and the newspaper offices,” the paper said in 1916.

Another quake struck nearby in Mitchell County in 1926. There were three in the state in 1957. Another rocked Henderson County in 1981.

“These old, ancient zones of weakness have been basically pressed and pressed and pressed have finally slipped like this,” said North Carolina state geologist Kenneth Taylor.

The Appalachian Mountains are the great-great grandmother of all the mountain chains. They were once as high as the Alps and the Rockies. They formed after Pangea broke apart and North America made its way to where it is now.

“The ones in the east are old and cold,” Taylor said. “The old and cold rocks carry the earthquake waves further.”

An earthquake in 2011 damaged the Washington Monument and was felt from Canada to Bermuda.

The 5.1 earthquake in Sparta was felt across North Carolina and in neighboring states.

Taylor said the neighbors to the west are much busier.

“You’ll see there’s more and more in the Tennessee side, not on the North Carolina side, but on the Tennessee side,” he explained. “And a lot of that is probably due to those rocks have beaten up more than the ones in North Carolina have been.”

For those on the North Carolina side of the line now faced with fixing the recent damage, that’s probably just fine.

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