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This Day in History, August 31, 2020 – “The 1886 Charleston Earthquake”


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(Damage to the Unitarian Church in Charleston. Image courtesy of Wikicommons, Public Domain.)

Just 134 years ago, on August 31, 1886, a rare earthquake struck the eastern coast of the United States, with its epicenter in Charleston, South Carolina. Not only was this unusual, but the earthquake was devastatingly strong, with a magnitude of 7.3, the same strength as the Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 that devastated the city.

Adding to the strange event, this earthquake was an internal earthquake, which means that it did not occur along the fault line, like most earthquakes, but instead in the middle of a tectonic plate. Charleston was in ruins, and even the railroads were not spared. Most of the buildings that were still standing had to be demolished, while the historic buildings were rescued using earthquake bolts, which connect the existing structure to reinforcements within the building. The earthquake was so strong that it could be felt as far away as Cuba. Although the earthquake cost more than millions, only an estimated 60 people were killed. Mother Nature can be a terrible thing, and it is up to humanity to prepare for the inevitable bad things that will happen in our lives, be prepared.

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