Over the past seven days, 7 earthquakes have rocked parts of central South Carolina, adding to the high number that has hit the state over the past year. Photo: USGS
Seven more earthquakes have rocked South Carolina in recent days, and scientists aren’t quite sure why the state has been shaken. The earthquakes were all around Elgin, a small incorporated town in Kershaw, about 20 miles northeast of Columbia, the state capital. Elgin is located within the Carolina Sandhills in the Atlantic Coastal Plain County; This area features many windswept sand dunes that were active during the last Ice Age but the sand dunes are currently installed due to vegetation under modern climatic conditions.
More than two dozen earthquakes have hit seismically active South Carolina since December. According to the USGS and the South Carolina Department of Emergency Management (SCEMD), the strongest earthquake over the past week was a 3.3-magnitude event on May 8. Another event followed 1.6 and 1.8 on the eighth, 2.1 and 2.9 occurred on the ninth, and 2.3 and 2.8 on the tenth. No earthquakes have struck today as of the date of this article’s publication.
These weak earthquakes struck after a swarm came and went in December. The mysterious swarm began on Monday, December 27 at 2:18 p.m. The first earthquake, measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale, struck 30 miles north of Columbia, South Carolina, at a depth of just 3.1 kilometers. More than 3,100 USGS residents reported feeling it at the time, with one reporting shaking coming from as far away as Rock Hill, which straddles the North/South Carolina border. While the earthquake was felt by many, no damage was reported in Palmetto State. This earthquake was followed by 10 other events of magnitude between 1.5 and 2.6. The second earthquake occurred three hours and twenty minutes after the first. The last earthquake in that series occurred on the morning of January 5, bringing a temporary end to the quakes there.
According to the USGS, a swarm is a series of mostly small earthquakes with no identifiable main shock. “Swarms are usually short-lived, but they can last for days, weeks, or sometimes even months,” the USGS adds. However, the South Carolina event did not fit the typical definition of a swarm because the first event was much larger than the rest.
According to the USGS, “aftershocks” are a series of earthquakes that occur after a larger main shock occurs on a fault. Aftershocks occur near the fault zone where the main shock rupture occurred and are part of the ‘resetting process’ after the main slip on the fault, says the USGS. However, aftershocks of a magnitude 3.3 earthquake will only last a few days. Not the week before.
According to the South Carolina Department of Emergency Management (SCEMD), there are approximately 10-15 earthquakes each year in South Carolina, most of which are not felt by residents; On average, only 3-5 are felt each year. Most earthquakes in South Carolina occur in the Middleton Place-Summerville seismic zone. The two most significant historical earthquakes in South Carolina were the 1886 Charleston-Summerville earthquake and the 1913 Union County earthquake. The 1886 Charleston earthquake was the most damaging earthquake in the eastern United States. It was also the most devastating earthquake in the United States during the 19th century.
Experts are concerned that at some point in the future a large-scale earthquake will strike and cause significant damage and loss of life. Although it has been more than 100 years since the last major earthquake, a 2001 study titled A Comprehensive Study of Seismic Hazard and Vulnerability for South Carolina confirmed that the state is highly vulnerable to seismic activity. The study, which is based on scientific research, provided information about the potential effects of earthquakes on current residents and on modern structures and systems, including roads, bridges, homes, commercial and government buildings, schools, hospitals, and water and sanitation facilities.
No one is sure what will happen to this continuous stream of light earthquakes or whether or not something bigger is looming. Right now, SCEMD is sending out tweets to South Carolina residents encouraging them to prepare for any disaster this year—earthquakes included.
Do you know what to do if an #earthquake strikes while you are in 🛌? You have 🔦 & 👞 👞 next to it. Stay in, do not risk injury in the potential dangers. Turn on your stomach. Cover your head and neck with a pillow. Wait until the shaking stops. Wear 👞 before leaving 🛏. pic.twitter.com/m5QeE12IEK
– SCEMD (@SCEMD) January 6, 2022
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