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Earthquakes

(Source: USGS)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines an earthquake as “a sudden, rapid shaking of the earth caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the earth’s surface.” Earthquakes result when stress forces build up along fractures or fault lines in the earth’s crust over extended periods of time. At the point where these stresses exceed the strength of the rocks on either side of the fault there is a sudden rupture or snapping that releases energy in the form of seismic waves.

Faults identified to date in North Carolina are ancient and inactive. The faults beneath the surface that generate earthquakes have yet to be positively identified.

Earthquakes with magnitude of about 2.0 or less are called microearthquakes and are the most common form of quake detected in Forsyth County. They are not commonly felt by people and are generally recorded only on local seismographs.

In late 2006, southwestern Winston-Salem endured a series of five small earthquakes and microquakes, ranging from a magnitude of 1.3 to 2.9. Although there were several reports of cracked foundations of residential structures and many citizens reported hearing audible bangs and feeling small tremors, no major damage was reported from the quakes.

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