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4.3-magnitude earthquake in Kentucky rattles widespread region

Published: Monday, Nov. 12, 2012 9:25 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — A 4.3-magnitude earthquake centered in southeastern Kentucky on Saturday has shaken residents from northern Ohio to North Carolina and Alabama.

The earthquake, centered more than half a mile underground about eight miles west of Whitesburg, Ky., did not appear to cause any structural damage in the Ohio Valley. The epicenter was about 35 miles west of the southwestern Virginia border. It occurred at 12:08 p.m. local time, according to the federal agency that tracks earthquakes.

More than 200 people from Ohio, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Georgia Indiana and North Carolina reported feeling the temblor on the U.S. Geological Survey's website, some more than 300 miles away.

Shocks of 2.2 and 2.5 magnitude at shallower depths also are listed on the website, recorded as occurring within the hour and a half following the first.

Earthquakes in Kentucky are not uncommon, mainly occurring along its western border, along the New Madrid fault zone that traces northeast from the Arkansas-Tennessee border along Missouri and up to Indiana. That region reported three earthquakes between 7.5 and 7.7 in 1811 and 1812, according to the USGS.

Kentucky's biggest earthquake was a 5.2 in 1980 in Sharpsburg, a town in Kentucky's northeast.

Property damage totaled more than $1 million during that temblor, with collapsed chimneys and cracks in the ground seen about 7.5 miles away from the epicenter.

Earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains are more infrequent and harder to attribute to a specific fault because the region sits on a tectonic plate that doesn't end until the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Deeper, smaller faults east of the Rockies are studied far less, the USGS reports.

These same features, however, also make them more noticeable. A 4.0-temblor on the East Coast can be felt 10 times farther away than if it happened in California, according to the USGS. An earthquake in Maine last month was felt as far south as Connecticut, rattling windows and shaking kitchen tables.

Also on Saturday, a 3.1-magnitude quake in Alaska recorded at 12:01 p.m. local time is listed on the website, but no reports from the public are listed.

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