Seismic activity has DOT prepared for possible earthquakes in SC

Buildings in Charleston damaged by the 1886 quake (Source: DNR)
Buildings in Charleston damaged by the 1886 quake (Source: DNR)
By Logan Smith - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's been over a century since a violent earthquake destroyed many buildings in Charleston and killed dozens of people. While we've been lucky since then, recent seismic tremors off the coast of the state have the South Carolina Department of Transportation telling the public about the agency's response plan if an earthquake hits the state.

The plan was prepared by DOT with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, and would go into effect after an earthquake to assess the damage and make sure the state's highways and bridges are still safe to use.

"Seismic Response Teams would be deployed as necessary based on the information coming from the affected areas following an earthquake and aftershocks," DOT described in a statement. "These teams are assigned to pre-designated staging locations, and would begin moving toward the epicenter of the earthquake documenting and reporting visible damage to highways and bridges."

The plan has already been implemented several times after measurable seismic events, DOT said.

"Earthquakes can neither be predicted nor prevented, yet these events will undoubtedly have both short-term and long-term impact on the state's transportation infrastructure system, the safety of the public and the transporting of basic necessities," said Transportation Secretary H. B. Limehouse, Jr. "For these very important reasons, SCDOT's response plan is an attempt to manage and control the effects as much as possible."

An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.6 hit Charleston just before 10:00pm on August 31, 1886. Buildings crumbled, and about 60 people died in the quake. At the time, it was the strongest quake ever to hit the Eastern Seaboard.

Other small earthquakes have shaken the South Carolina coast in 2008 and 2009 with magnitudes of 3.6 and 3.2, respectively. Most recently, a 2.8-magnitude quake occurred about six miles southeast of Summerville in mid-May.

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