CANTON, N.C. (WNCN) – A magnitude 2.1 earthquake was reported in the western North Carolina mountains early Friday morning, making it the fourth earthquake to shake the mountain region this month.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake took place just after midnight early Friday morning about 17 miles west of Asheville near West Canton. As of Friday afternoon, not many residents reported feeling anything, which is typical for an earthquake this small.
A 3.2 magnitude earthquake hit the same area on June 4, 2023 at 6:09 a.m., which was felt by many in the area.
A second earthquake also happened later in the day June 4, a 2.2 magnitude followed by a third earthquake Tuesday, June 6, 2023 measuring 2.5.
Those three, plus the one early Friday morning bring the total to four in June alone and 15 for the entire year in North Carolina.
Most of the earthquakes recorded in the Carolinas are 2.5 or less. While there have been large earthquakes in the Carolinas in the past, the overall risk of quakes is low.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality says there have been a few strong earthquakes in the North Carolina mountains in the last 100 years. In 1916 there was a magnitude 5.2 earthquake near Skyland, NC in Buncombe County.
More recently there was a 3.6 magnitude earthquake in June of 2022 near Elgin, SC. That was the biggest earthquake in the Carolinas since the magnitude 5.1 hit Sparta, North Carolina in August of 2020.
South Carolina is no stranger to seismic activity as there are many fault lines across the state. There was a magnitude 4.1 earthquake near Parkersville in February 2014.
The largest quake ever recorded on the east coast was a magnitude 7.0 earthquake near Charleston in 1886 and was felt as far away as Cuba and New York. At least 60 people were killed, and thousands of buildings were damaged. Structural damage extended hundreds of miles to cities in Alabama, Ohio, and Kentucky.
Experts suggest these earthquakes all happened along a portion of the Eastern Piedmont Fault, which runs from Alabama to Virginia.
The NCDEQ also points out that even though North Carolina and the east coast of the United States experience occasional earthquakes, this area is not a seismically active area like California and the West Coast. In California there are many active faults where large, damaging earthquakes occur frequently. In contrast, there are no active fault zones in North Carolina. Earthquakes are more frequent in the western part of our state, but statewide they are relatively small, random and scattered events.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, earthquakes are caused by underground rock failures that relieve stress on the earth’s crust. The rock structure changes after an initial earthquake and can cause additional rock failures and earthquakes. Once there is an initial earthquake, aftershocks may continue for a few weeks or even longer.
About 20,000 earthquakes occur annually around the globe, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s approximately 55 earthquakes per day worldwide.