Residents of Wilkes and adjoining counties experienced an earthquake that was unusually strong for this area a little before 8:10 a.m. Sunday.
It shook houses for about 10 seconds and was strong enough to awaken people in Wilkes. There are news reports of it being felt as far away as Ohio and Atlanta, Ga.
The U.S. Geological Society (USGS) confirmed a 5.1 magnitude earthquake Sunday morning, with an epicenter about 2 1/2 miles south of Sparta. That put the epicenter in the Pine Swamp community of Alleghany County. The USGS said it occurred at 8:07 a.m.
In Alleghany County, the earthquake caused power outages, broke waterlines, buckled pavement, cracked walls, toppled chimneys, left buildings off their foundations and knocked items off shelves.
About 10 miles directly south of the Pine Swamp community at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountain escarpment in Wilkes, Dennis McGrady of Longbottom Road in Traphill said the earthquake activated a cuckoo clock that he and his wife, Janet McGrady, brought home from England by making the pendulum swing. He said it also knocked down glass suncatchers from a window.
McGrady said he could see seismic waves of the earthquake radiating away by the way the trees swayed.
There were reports of smaller earthquakes in northwestern North Carolina earlier Sunday morning.
According to the USGS, the event at 8:07 a.m. Sunday was the largest earthquake centered in North Carolina since a 5.2 earthquake centered near Skyland in Buncombe County in 1916.
There also is a report of a 5.1 earthquake centered near Wilkesboro in 1861.