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An early morning earthquake in east Tennessee Wednesday was widely felt over the Southeast U.S. The magnitude 4.4 quake struck around 4:14 a.m. EST, centered about 7 miles north-northeast of Decatur, Tennessee, in Meigs County, about 55 miles west-southwest of Knoxville. And right across the river from Watts Bar Nuclear Plant
It was followed about 12 minutes later by a magnitude 3.3 aftershock.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, light shaking was observed over most of the Atlanta metro area, and a number of states from southern Alabama to South Carolina, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
More than 5700 people reported feeling the earthquake on the USGS homepage summary. There were however no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
This quake was one of the strongest on record in east Tennessee, exceeded only by a November 30, 1973 near Maryville, south of Knoxville which lead to minor damage near the epicenter.
The quake appeared to occur along the Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone, a southwest-to-northeast belt extending from Alabama to far southwest Virginia that is the second-most active quake zone in the central and eastern U.S. behind the more notorious New Madrid zone.
A 2014 USGS study bumped a portion of the ETSZ to a higher risk of earthquakes, though not nearly as high as the New Madrid zone in the western part of Tennessee and other adjacent states.
Though quakes stronger than M4.7 have not been recorded in recent times, a 2017 study in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America found evidence of a M6 or stronger temblor along the ETSZ within the last 25,000 years.
Earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S. can be felt over an area more than 10 times larger than a similar magnitude quake in the West, according to the USGS.