A 4.4 magnitude earthquake that struck near the the East Tennessee town of Decatur early Wednesday could be felt across parts of the Upper Cumberland.
Tennessee Tech Earth Sciences professor Evan Hart said it’s not uncommon for earthquakes to occur in that part of the state.
“That is an occurrence that happens probably about once a year. There’s earthquakes in the East Tennessee Seismic Zone, which is what that area is called over there,” Hart said. “It was the second largest earthquake on record, but those records only go back about 50-years or so. It was unusual that it was so strong, but it was not a severe earthquake.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Eastern Tennessee seismic zone is one of the most active earthquake areas in the Southeast. The zone extends across parts of Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.
Hart also said it’s not uncommon for earthquakes in the Eastern United States to felt long distances away.
“That doesn’t make the earthquake more damaging just because you feel it a longer distance away from where it occurred,” Hart said. The earthquake’s seismic waves can travel hundreds of miles through the earth’s crust.”
The earthquake that hit near Decatur reportedly could be felt as far away as Atlanta.
Officials have not reported any injuries or damage associated with the quake, but Hart said the incident should be a reminder.
“We tend to have very small earthquakes in Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee, but it doesn’t rule out that there could be something larger in the future,” Hart said. “If I lived in West Tennessee I would be more concerned because there have been larger earthquakes there in the past.”
According to USGS, Wednesday morning’s earthquake occurred about 4:15 a.m., and was centered about 7 miles northeast of Decatur. About 15 minutes later, a 3.3 magnitude aftershock struck.