Earthquake reported in Black Belt

Published 6:42 pm Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An earthquake measuring 2.2 on the Richter scale occurred about 11 miles south of Centreville early Wednesday morning.

No damage was reported as a result of the earthquake, which the U.S. Geological Service recorded at 2:14 a.m. An earthquake of such a slight magnitude is generally not felt by the public, but is recorded by seismic instruments.The actual location of the earthquake was in a rural area, 32.805°N, 87.069°W, according to the USGS Earthquake Center.

Dr. Lorraine Wolf, professor of geophysics at Auburn University, said earthquakes of such light magnitude are not uncommon. “That part of Alabama has a lot of very ancient, non-active faults,” she said.

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Wolf said the earthquake could have resulted from falling rocks in an old abandoned coal mine or by someone injecting fluids into the ground.

While earthquakes in Alabama are rare, they happen. The first one of significance was recorded Feb. 4, 1886, in Sumter and Marengo counties. A similar event occurred nine days later and again felt by people who lived along the Tombigbee River in the western part of the state.

In 1916, a strong earthquake was reported east of Birmingham. Its strongest point was at Easonville. People reported broken windows and damaged frame buildings. Some chimneys were knocked down.

Birmingham was the site of another earthquake in April 1957, which alarmed many people, cracked cement steps, damaged chimneys and cracked some walls.

Two years later, an earthquake centered near Huntsville, shook bricks from chimneys and some buildings in the area.

Wolf mentioned an earthquake that occurred in 1997 near Brewton and was felt as far north as Demopolis and as far west as Gulfport, Miss.