An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1 that struck North Carolina near its border with Virginia on Sunday morning was the area’s largest in over a century, the United States Geological Survey said.
The earthquake struck around two miles southeast of Sparta, N.C., a town about 100 miles north of Charlotte, shortly after 8 a.m. local time and was felt as far south as Atlanta and as far north as Baltimore, according to reports made by the public to the agency.
The earthquake was the region’s largest since one of 5.2 magnitude struck in 1916 in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains. A 5.8 magnitude earthquake in 2011 that struck Mineral, Va., around 200 miles northeast of Sunday’s earthquake, is the largest one on the East Coast in recent history.
Items fell off the shelves at homes and grocery stores but no deaths or serious injuries were reported.
“It was a very jolting ride,” said John Kilmartin, manager and part owner of the Alleghany Inn in Sparta.
He was at home, five miles outside of Sparta, when the earthquake happened.
“It felt like the whole house just lifted up and started shaking violently,” he said. “We couldn’t even really walk.”
The inn did not suffer any damage as far as he could see, he said.
Large earthquakes are uncommon in the region, according to the agency, though some moderately damaging earthquakes can hit inland North Carolina and South Carolina “every few decades,” it said.
It is likely that aftershocks of magnitude 3 or higher will hit the region in the next week, the agency estimated, though the chance that one larger than Sunday’s earthquake will hit is 4 percent.
At least four foreshocks of around 2.1 to 2.6 started about 25 hours before Sunday’s earthquake, the agency said.