Italy earthquake mirrors Charleston risk

Italy earthquake mirrors Charleston risk

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - College of Charleston geologists Norm Levine and Steven Jaume predict that an earthquake in Charleston would have a similar outcome, in regards to damage and destruction, to the earthquake central Italy received overnight.

Levine and Jaume are also leaders in the South Carolina Earthquake Education and Preparedness (SCEEP) program.

"That could happen tomorrow in the Charleston area," Jaume said.

An earthquake similar to the magnitude that hit Italy would result in similar destruction in Charleston.

"Although the environments are completely different, aspects on what went on with the buildings in these areas are similar," Levine said.

"We have some of the same building vulnerability in some historic parts of our city," Jaume added.

The buildlngs that are most susceptible to damage are masonry buildings, made from brick and/or stone and mortar.

Many of the historic buildings in downtown Charleston are made from brick and mortar.

"That central mountain region has a lot of old, medieval towns with a lot of brick and mortar, stone and mortar buildings and a lot of those have collapsed as a result of the earthquake," Jaume explained.

"There are, what are known as, unreinforced masonary buildings," Levine said.

These two SCEEP leaders said Charleston is ready for a natural disaster. Numerous historic buildings downtown have already been reinforced.

"They literally put a steel skeleton on the inside and bolted the old bricks to it so it still looks historic, it keeps the charm of the city, but it's actually now a steel-frame building," Jaume said.

"Charleston is actually quite progressive, in terms of South Carolina and across the nation, in protecting it's historic buildings," Levine said. "If we can keep them from falling we can maintain the historic character of Charleston, even after an earthquake."

The earthquake that shook Italy is not an anomaly. Lowcountry residents should always be prepared.

"Earthquakes are happening daily and it's not something unusual, this is happening all over the world," Levine said.

The last time Charleston experienced a high magnitude earthquake was in 1886.

The 130th anniversary of that earthquake is August 31st.

It killed 60 people and destroyed many historic buildings. It was one of the most damaging quakes in the Southeast.

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