Earthquake Rattles Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky

February 21, 2012; 9:00 AM ET
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Numerous small quakes have shaken the region since 1990. Image appears courtesy of the USGS.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a 4.0 magnitude earthquake shook areas in Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky before dawn Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012.

The quake, which struck just before 4:00 a.m. CST, was felt as far away as St. Louis.

The quake center was 16 miles southwest of Cairo, Ill., and 122 miles north-northeast of Memphis, Tenn.

The soil composition in the region likely magnified the effect of the quake somewhat, causing it to be felt over a broad area, and added to the shaking. However, no major damage has been reported, according to the Associated Press and other sources.

Quakes of this magnitude can cause cracks in walls and foundations and knock items off shelves and pictures off walls.

The shallow quake (depth 3.1 miles) early today occurred in the New Madrid Seismic Zone in the mid-Mississippi Valley Rift and was centered near East Prairie, Mo.

The area has a history of much stronger earthquakes. Violent quakes occurred in the New Madrid region 200 years ago during 1811 and 1812 with magnitudes ranging from 7.0 to 8.1. These quakes and others before them altered the course of the Mississippi River.

Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews contributed to the content of this story.

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