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Tennessee Earthquake, Strongest in Decades, Jolts Homes in the Region and Atlanta

December 12, 2018 11:00 am

A 4.4-magnitude earthquake struck on Wednesday morning in rural Eastern Tennessee, rattling homes as far away as Atlanta in the region’s most powerful jolt in more than 45 years.

The earth shook around 4:14 a.m. local time just outside Decatur, Tennessee, a city of about 1,600 people near the Great Smoky Mountains, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquake was shallow, about 5 1/2 miles below the surface, sending ripples throughout the area and into neighboring states.

It was the strongest earthquake in Eastern Tennessee since a 4.7-magnitude earthquake struck near Maryville, Tennessee, in 1973, the National Weather Service said.

About 150 miles to the south, people in Atlanta said they woke up on Wednesday to their houses shaking. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The earthquake struck about two miles east of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, one of the largest nuclear power stations in the United States. But the Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the plant, said Watts Bar suffered no damage.

“TVA facilities are designed to withstand seismic events,” the Tennessee Valley Authority said on Twitter.

Mary Colbaugh, who works at the Decatur Family Diner in Decatur, said she felt the ground shake as she was driving into work on Wednesday. But it was not any reason for alarm, she said.

“We heard the roar and a little shake,” Colbaugh said in an interview. “It’s a tremble.”


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