CANALOU -- A light earthquake shook parts of southeast Missouri early Tuesday as most people slept, rattling dishes and some homes but causing no damage or injuries, authorities said.
The magnitude-3.7 temblor about 3:30 a.m. was centered about 15 miles west-northwest of New Madrid, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center.
The New Madrid County Sheriff's Department said the quake's epicenter appeared to be around Canalou, a tiny town of about 300 northwest of New Madrid in Missouri's Bootheel, sheriff's dispatcher Mary McMillion said.
Though Anthony Comstock has felt the ground rumble over the years in quake-prone southeast Missouri, the New Madrid County sheriff's deputy said the Tuesday morning temblor ''hit hard.''
The quake awakened Comstock, his wife and their two sons -- ages 14 and 10. Comstock even got dressed and hustled outside, thinking the shaking and quaking that lasted only a second or two was a tree that had fallen onto the house -- or perhaps even ''an explosion or something.''
''The whole house was rumbling,'' said Comstock, 39. ''We felt tremors, little rumbles, before. But this hit hard. It scared everybody in the house. It's the first time I felt something that strong.''
Though that sheriff's department fielded only about a couple of calls reporting the small quake, ''nobody in our department felt it,'' McMillion said.
The quake was felt around Sikeston, about 25 miles north of New Madrid, said Capt. Mark Crocker of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety.
''It rattled dishes and stuff like that around the city, and I guess some people did notice it shook their house,'' Crocker said, saying that aside from a few calls to his department the quake went unnoticed.
''It didn't wake me up,'' he said. ''This is not a busy, active town at that time of the morning.''
The New Madrid fault is the most active fault in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, straddling the Mississippi River for more than 100 miles along the southeastern border of Missouri.
Three giant earthquakes in 1811 and 1812 devastated what were sparsely populated areas near New Madrid. Geological Survey scientists estimate there is a one in 10 chance that a similar quake could happen in the next 50 years.
The Associated Press provided information for this report.