TAMPA, Fla. – A magnitude 6.0 earthquake in the Gulf of Mexico sent shock waves through an area from Louisiana to southwest Florida on Sunday, but no damage was reported, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The earthquake, centered about 260 miles southwest of Tampa, was too small to trigger a tsunami or dangerous waves, the agency said. The USGS received more than 2,800 reports from people who felt the 10:56 a.m. quake.
Scientists said it was the largest and most widely felt of more than a dozen earthquakes recorded in the eastern Gulf of Mexico in the last 30 years.
"This is a fairly unique event," said Don Blakeman, an analyst with the National Earthquake Information Center who said the quake was unusually strong. "I wouldn't expect any substantial damage, but it is possible there will be some minor damage."
The most prevalent vibration, which last for about 20 seconds, was felt on the gulf coast of Florida and in southern Georgia, Blakeman said. But residents in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana also called in reports.
"It rattled our trailer pretty good," said Dan Hawks, who lives near Ocala in the small central Florida community of Pedro. "The house started shaking. We could actually see it moving. We looked at each stupidly and said, 'What's the deal?"'
Florida counties along the Gulf of Mexico called the state emergency operations center with reports of tremors but no damage was reported, spokesman Mike Stone said. Gov. Jeb Bush was informed of the situation, Stone said.
The epicenter is an unusual location for earthquake activity, but scientists recorded a magnitude 5.2 temblor in the same location on Feb. 10.
"This kind of occurrence is unusual in that spot, especially for an earthquake of this size," Blakeman said of Sunday's quake.
The temblor was unusual because it was not centered on a known fault line. The "midplate" earthquake, deep under the gulf, was probably the result of stresses generated by the interaction of tectonic plates in the earth's crust, the agency said.
Only one of Florida's rare earthquakes caused significant damage. In January 1879, St. Augustine residents reported heavy shaking that knocked plaster off the walls.
A more recent temblor, in November 1952, prompted a resident of Quincy to report the shaking "interfered with the writing of a parking ticket," the USGS said.