Many people in Northeast Tennessee felt the earth move early Saturday afternoon due to a 4.3 magnitude earthquake centered in Blackey, Ky., about 10 miles west of Whitesburg, Ky.
According to the Associated Press, residents in West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Georgia reported feeling the earthquake shortly after noon.
The earthquake, lasting just a few seconds in surrounding states, was reported to have lasted approximately 15 seconds at the National Weather Service office in Jackson, Ky., located about 60 miles northwest of Whitesburg.
Within the Tri-Cities, reports came in to local sheriff’s departments and dispatch centers following the quake, as the epicenter was located about 57 miles northwest of Bristol and 46 miles northwest of Kingsport.
In Washington County, people in the Gray, Sulphur Springs and Cherokee Road areas reported feeling the tremor. In Sullivan County, dispatchers said calls came in from all over the county. In both counties no injuries or damages were reported.
In Greene County, reports of homes shaking during the episode were recorded in Tusculum and the Durham Hensley area near Chuckey.
By about 2:30 p.m., Carter County had only received one call from the Watauga area from someone claiming to have felt the earthquake. In Johnson and Unicoi counties, around three to five people called authorities in each county to report the quake.
Harry Colerick, who lives in the Cooks Valley area near Kingsport, said while the earthquake only last 8 to 10 seconds, he felt it.
“It was just a little bit of a ... very slight vibration. I noticed out on my deck I’ve got a hanging bird feeder and it jiggled up and down a little bit. That’s all there was to it,” Colerick said.
He said he made contact with his surrounding neighbors to confirm that what he had felt was indeed an earthquake, but said other than being curious, no one was really alarmed.
“It was a little bit different,” Colerick said. “This is something that I don’t experience once a day.”
According to Chris Gregg, associate professor of geology in East Tennessee State University’s geosciences department, said the earthquake was relatively small and shallow, going about 10 to 12 miles beneath the surface, but because it was an eastern quake more people felt it Saturday.
“For an earthquake of this magnitude ... here in the eastern United States, the rock is older and more dense than out in the western United States,” Gregg said. “This difference in the type of rock means that the shaking from an earthquake in the east will be felt over a wider area than the same magnitude out west, so this is why we have so many states reporting that they experienced the earthquake.”
He said area residents who did feel the quake could have witnessed things, such as the shuddering of glass windows, shaking of china in cabinets, movement from a chandelier and possibly water wobbling in a glass sitting on a table.
“Loose items in a home would be where most people probably noticed the motion,” Gregg said. “People who live down in the valleys where unconsolidated sands and gravels are often found, they’re probably going to experience the ground motion more than people who live on the hilltops or ridges, where you’re more likely to have solid rock underneath them.”
He said looking at the “Did You Feel It?” page on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website, approximately 3,300 people had reported the quake in about 33 minutes following the event in about nine states.
Gregg also said there is a chance for aftershocks.
“I don’t think that they (the public) need to be concerned, but what I would suggest is that ... we just need to remind ourselves that we live in an area where earthquakes do occur. Most of them are very unlikely to cause any damage, but we should use this time as an opportunity to make some inquiry,” he said.