Earthquake Preparedness

Visit the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s “Earthquakes in North Carolina” page.

Historic WNC Earthquakes

Feb 21, 1916, Near Waynesville, Haywood County

Tops of chimneys were thrown to the ground; windowpanes were broken in many houses; and people rushed into the streets at Waynesville. At Sevierville, Tenn., about 70 km northwest of Waynesville, bricks were shaken from chimneys. In Wear’s Cove, about 16 km southwest of Sevierville, the flow of water in springs increased and in places water became muddy. Minor damage was reported in western Tennessee at Athens, Knoxville, Maryville, Morristown, and Newport, Tenn.; at Tryon, N.C.; and at Bristol, Va. Also reported felt in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

July 8, 1926, Southern Mitchell County

A sharp local earthquake in Mitchell County caused minor damage; one downed chimney, cracks in chim- neys and foundations of houses, broken water pipes and glassware, and shifting of houses on foundations. Ground cracks also were reported. Damage was con- fined to an area about 1 km long and 275 m wide. Town names were not mentioned in any of the accounts on this event.

July 2, 1957, Buncombe County area

Minor damage reported in western North Carolina included cracks in walls and plaster at Asheville, cracks in retaining wall at Marshall, damaged chimneys and cracks in plaster at Swannanoa, and cracks in plaster at Weaverville. Also reported felt in Haywood and Madison Counties, N.C., and at Flag Pond, Tenn.

Nov. 24, 1957 Northwest Jackson County

At Hartford, Tenn. (about 70 km southeast of Knoxville), slight damage to buildings included a crack in one wall and a kitchen that was separated from the rest of the house. The earthquake shifted furniture in Jackson County, at Cherokee and Sylva, N.C., about 50 km south of Hartford, Tenn. Also felt in South Carolina. Magnitude 4.0

May 5,1981 Near Hendersonville, Henderson County

Cracks formed in windows and a concrete patio in Hendersonville, and one sidewalk shifted 5 cm. Cracks also occurred in drywall and a house foundation a few kilometers southeast of Hendersonville, at Zirconia. Water in several wells became muddy in the Dana area. Also felt in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Magnitude 3.3

In the News

Earthquake Patterns

Mainshock – Aftershock Pattern

Many earthquakes follow a  pattern known as a mainshock-aftershock sequence. In its simplest form, this means that the largest earthquake occurs first in this sequence, followed by a series of smaller shocks, decaying over a time period ranging from weeks to decades. 

Swarm Pattern

Not all earthquake sequences follow the mainshock-aftershock pattern. Sometimes, the largest event might not be the first event in a sequence; instead it might occur in the middle. Sometimes sequences can have many earthquakes with magnitudes similar to the largest earthquake of the sequence. Sometimes sequences don’t decay over time, but rather remain steady or even increase in their activity rates over periods of days, weeks, or even months. Sequences that don’t fit a mainshock-aftershock pattern are typically considered swarms.

The “swarm” designation is typically applied when we observe relatively many earthquakes within a relatively small area, which just don’t fit the pattern of a mainshock-aftershock sequence.


What does an earthquake feel like?

The way an earthquake feels depends on where you are, where the earthquake is, and how big the earthquake is:

  • A large earthquake nearby will feel like a sudden large jolt followed quickly by more strong shaking that may last a few seconds or up to a couple of minutes if it’s a rare great event. The shaking will feel violent and it will be difficult to stand up. The contents of your house will be a mess.
  • A large earthquake far away will feel like a gentle bump followed several seconds later by stronger rolling shaking that may feel like sharp shaking for a little while.
  • A small earthquake nearby will feel like a small sharp jolt followed by a few stronger sharp shakes that pass quickly.
  • A small earthquake far away will probably not be felt at all, but if you do feel it, it will be a subtle gentle shake or two that is easier to feel if you’re still and sitting down.

Drop, Cover, Hold On



























































Earthquake Insurance

Earthquakes Can Drain Your Bank Account


Federal relief funds may not cover immediate costs.

Where would you go if an earthquake damages your home?

How would you pay for immediate costs like repairs or replacement housing?


Earthquake Insurance

Parametric Insurance



Take Steps Now

  • Explore full insurance options or research partial coverage policies
  • Add money to savings account


Earthquakes can be emotionally and financially devastating events for both renters and homeowners. Avoid dipping into your retirement or college savings to recover after an earthquake; buy insurance now.


$250 K

Maximum Small Business Administration Loan Amount


Average FEMA Individual Assistance Payout

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