Streak of Midlands earthquakes longest in recent history, geologists say

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division is encouraging people to stay informed about...
The South Carolina Emergency Management Division is encouraging people to stay informed about and be prepared for earthquake activity in the state.(AP)
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 3:24 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A streak of earthquakes in the midlands that started in December of last year, may be the longest period of consecutive earthquakes in state history.

On Dec. 27, 2021, a 3.3 magnitude earthquake hit near Elgin in Kershaw County. Since then, 44 low-magnitude earthquakes have occurred in the Elgin-Lugoff area. However, seismologists believe these low-magnitude quakes are not indicators of larger earthquakes to come.

South Carolina has experienced thousands of earthquakes like these throughout the state’s history, according to State Geologist Scott Howard. He says what makes these quakes unique is the length of time over which they are occurring.

“These earthquakes are now the longest-running series of earthquakes in recent history,” Howard said. “Unlike earthquake swarms occurring elsewhere in the country, these have been low in magnitude and haven’t posed a hazard to people, fortunately.”

Dr. Steven C. Jaume’ with the College of Charleston’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences Department says a ripple effect can happen in areas that have not seen much consistent seismic activity.

“The Piedmont Fault System is made up of several smaller fault lines that stretch across the middle of South Carolina.” Jaume’ said. “The first earthquake on December 27 appears to be the one that started this swarm in Kershaw County. When an earthquake occurs in a region where there hasn’t been much activity over a long period of time, we can expect similar earthquakes to occur in that general area for the foreseeable future.”

These earthquakes are not related to mining activity or any other human cause, according to both Howard and Juame’.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division is encouraging people to stay informed and be prepared for earthquake activity in the state.

“We know our state was at the center of major earthquakes in the past,” SCEMD Director Kim Stenson said. “We all need to be prepared for the possibility of a large-scale earthquake, however unlikely the possibility may be. Check your insurance policies, conduct a home hazard hunt and practice Drop, Cover, Hold On. Those are all things you can do right now to make sure you’re prepared for earthquakes.”

The epicenter of the largest earthquake ever recorded along the eastern United States seaboard was just outside of Charleston on August 31, 1886. The 7.3 magnitude quake devastated the region and was felt from Chicago to Cuba.

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