NC city and county declare state of emergency after 5.1 magnitude earthquake

North Carolina news

SPARTA, N.C. (WNCN/AP/WGHP) — Alleghany County in North Carolina has declared a state of emergency after a 5.1 magnitude earthquake hit Sparta Sunday morning.

A state of emergency for Sparta was declared at 3:30 p.m. by mayor Wes Brinegar.

The most powerful earthquake to hit the state in more than 100 years also shook much of the state early Sunday, rattling homes, businesses and residents. Many people in the Raleigh area said they felt the quake.

The National Weather Service in Greenville said the 5.1-magnitude temblor struck at 8:07 a.m., following a much smaller quake several hours earlier.

Alleghany County declared the state of emergency around 5 p.m. Sunday, stating it would be retroactive to before the quake. The declaration did not have an end date for the state of emergency.

There were no reports of injuries, but some minor structural damage was reported in Sparta, as well as cracks in roads. Images on social media also showed items knocked off of grocery store shelves.

Experts with the United States Geological Survey are telling people to “be ready for more earthquakes” since aftershocks will continue near the mainshock.

“The USGS advises everyone to be aware of the possibility of aftershocks, especially when in or around vulnerable structures such as unreinforced masonry buildings,” the website reads.

Throughout next week, there is a 4 percent chance that one or more aftershocks will be larger than magnitude 5.1, according to the USGS forecast.

Smaller earthquakes are more likely through next week.

The chance of a magnitude 3 or higher earthquake is 56 percent.

Magnitude 3 and above are large enough to be felt near the epicenter. The number of aftershocks will drop off over time, but a large aftershock can increase the numbers again, temporarily.

Michael Hull was standing in his driveway at his home in Sparta when he noticed a group of deer running.

“Not even a minute passed and the side-to-side motion started,” Hull said. “It takes you a minute to realize what’s happening, and you just can’t believe it. Then it was over. It was loud, like God was shaking a mountain at you, literally.”

Karen Backer was in her Greensboro apartment when she heard initially mistook banging in her kitchen for her roommate.

“Nope, it was the cabinet doors ‘clinking’ open and closed! My neighbors on the other hand said they felt our apartment building shaking,” Backer said. “Well, sadly, nothing surprises me in 2020, but a hurricane and an earthquake in the same week is crazy.”

It was the largest earthquake to hit the state since 1916, when a magnitude 5.5 quake occurred near Skyland, the weather service said.

The U.S. Geological Service said the quake’s epicenter was about 2.5 miles (four kilometers) southeast of Sparta, just south of the Virginia-North Carolina border. The USGS said the population in the affected region resides in structures “that are resistant to earthquake shaking, though vulnerable structures exist.”

The quake was felt in nearby states including Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

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