Earthquake Surprises Blowing Rock on Sunday: 2.9 Magnitude
By David Rogers. August 25, 2013. BLOWING ROCK, NC -- Thousands of High Country residents looked at each other, stunned, late Sunday afternoon, after a small (2.9 on the Richter Scale) earthquake rocked the area. The U.S. Geological Survey identified the epicenter as just east of Flat Top Rd., and less than one-half mile south its intersection with Edmisten Rd.
The tremor was reported by USGS as being centered 2 miles north-northeast of Blowing Rock and 3 miles south of Boone. According to the USGS, the shift between two surfaces of rock occurred some 5.65 miles below the Earth's surface.
In its "Tectonic Summary", the USGS suggests that, though somewhat rare, earthquakes have a history in the inland Carolinas:
Earthquakes in the Inland Carolinas Region
Since at least 1776, people living inland in North and South Carolina, and in adjacent parts of Georgia and Tennessee, have felt small earthquakes and suffered damage from infrequent larger ones. The largest earthquake in the area (magnitude 5.1) occurred in 1916. Moderately damaging earthquakes strike the inland Carolinas every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt about once each year or two.
Earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S., although less frequent than in the western U.S., are typically felt over a much broader region. East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast. A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt at many places as far as 100 km (60 mi) from where it occurred, and it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake usually can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from where it occurred, and sometimes causes damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi).
Earthquakes everywhere occur on faults within bedrock, usually miles deep. Most bedrock beneath the inland Carolinas was assembled as continents collided to form a supercontinent about 500-300 million years ago, raising the Appalachian Mountains. Most of the rest of the bedrock formed when the supercontinent rifted apart about 200 million years ago to form what are now the northeastern U.S., the Atlantic Ocean, and Europe.
At well-studied plate boundaries like the San Andreas fault system in California, often scientists can determine the name of the specific fault that is responsible for an earthquake. In contrast, east of the Rocky Mountains this is rarely the case. The inland Carolinas region is far from the nearest plate boundaries, which are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea. The region is laced with known faults but numerous smaller or deeply buried faults remain undetected. Even the known faults are poorly located at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few, if any, earthquakes in the inland Carolinas can be linked to named faults. It is difficult to determine if a known fault is still active and could slip and cause an earthquake. As in most other areas east of the Rockies, the best guide to earthquake hazards in the seismic zone is the earthquakes themselves.
Also from the USGS:
What is an Earthquake?
An earthquake is what happens when two blocks of the earth suddenly slip past one another. The surface where they slip is called the fault or fault plane. The location below the earth’s surface where the earthquake starts is called the hypocenter, and the location directly above it on the surface of the earth is called the epicenter.
Sometimes an earthquake has foreshocks. These are smaller earthquakes that happen in the same place as the larger earthquake that follows. Scientists can’t tell that an earthquake is a foreshock until the larger earthquake happens. The largest, main earthquake is called the mainshock. Mainshocks always have aftershocks that follow. These are smaller earthquakes that occur afterwards in the same place as the mainshock. Depending on the size of the mainshock, aftershocks can continue for weeks, months, and even years after the mainshock!"
What Causes Earthquakes and Where Do They Happen?
The earth has four major layers: the inner core, outer core, mantle and crust. (figure 2) The crust and the top of the mantle make up a thin skin on the surface of our planet. But this skin is not all in one piece – it is made up of many pieces like a puzzle covering the surface of the earth. (figure 3) Not only that, but these puzzle pieces keep slowly moving around, sliding past one another and bumping into each other. We call these puzzle pieces tectonic plates, and the edges of the plates are called the plate boundaries. The plate boundaries are made up of many faults, and most of the earthquakes around the world occur on these faults. Since the edges of the plates are rough, they get stuck while the rest of the plate keeps moving. Finally, when the plate has moved far enough, the edges unstick on one of the faults and there is an earthquake.
Watauga HS Hosts NCTC Play Festival, Nov. 8-9
Special Report to Blowing Rock News from Watauga County Schools. By Marshall Ashcraft. October 29, 2013. BOONE, NC -- Watauga High School will host the regional competition of the North Carolina Theatre Conference (NCTC) High School Play Festival on November 8-9.