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Residents In North Carolina Brace For Earthquake's Aftershocks

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some news in the United States now. Yesterday's earthquake in North Carolina was the state's largest in more than a century. Here's Nick de la Canal from member station WFAE in Charlotte.

NICK DE LA CANAL, BYLINE: The epicenter of the 5.1 magnitude quake was in Sparta, a small rural town near the Virginia border. City Councilman Cole Edwards was asleep with his wife in their small brick home when they were abruptly awakened at 8:07 a.m.

COLE EDWARDS: We woke up to violent shaking and things falling off the shelves and pictures falling off the walls.

DE LA CANAL: The couple leapt from their bed in a daze as the walls shook and the ground rumbled for at least 15 seconds.

EDWARDS: First thing we did was go to the kids' rooms to check on the kids to make sure that they were OK.

DE LA CANAL: They were. And then Edwards' wife, still dressed in her pajamas, raced out to the car to check on her grandmother down the street, as Edwards began to assess the damage. Outside, he saw the top of his chimney had blown off, and the brick siding on his house had buckled and cracked. Other buildings in town were also badly damaged. Pat Irwin works as a dispatcher for the local sheriff's office.

PAT IRWIN: I was sitting at the breakfast table eating breakfast, and the house shook so bad that it dumped our coffee out of the coffee cups.

DE LA CANAL: She rushed to work to help field calls from residents who reported fallen chimneys, shifted foundations and roads cracked down the middle. The U.S. Geological Survey says the earthquake was the largest to hit the state since 1916 and that tremors were felt as far away as Atlanta and parts of Tennessee. Geology professor Andy Bobyarchick with the University of North Carolina Charlotte says smaller earthquakes are frequent in the North Carolina mountains.

ANDY BOBYARCHICK: Almost every week, there's a magnitude 2 or so earthquake up in the Blue Ridge somewhere. But, usually, it's around and west of Asheville. This earthquake near Sparta is farther northeast than I would have expected it to be.

DE LA CANAL: He says the earthquake can be chalked up to mostly dormant fault lines created more than 150 million years ago.

BOBYARCHICK: Sometimes the amount of stress that builds up is substantial enough to cause a fairly large magnitude earthquake, and I think that's what happened in the Sparta earthquake.

DE LA CANAL: The Geological Survey says it's likely there will be aftershocks in the next week or so, but not strong enough to cause major damage.

For NPR News, I'm Nick de la Canal in Charlotte.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCKET MINER'S "OLD GHOSTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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