South Carolina has had enough of natural disasters. An ice storm in 2014. Flooding in 2015. Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Hurricane Irma’s coastal surge and flooding in 2017. But there is good reason to take serious note of another potential threat.
Gov. Henry McMaster proclaimed Earthquake Awareness Week for Oct. 15-21. The S.C. Emergency Management Division encourages everyone to take the opportunity to learn about the state’s seismic fault system and how best to prepare for earthquakes.
A key component of the week of preparedness is the Great Southeast ShakeOut on Thursday at 10:19 a.m. Similar to other emergency preparedness drills sponsored by SCEMD, it will begin at 10:19 a.m. with a broadcast on NOAA tone-alert weather radio and broadcast media. Schools, businesses, organizations, government agencies, communities and households are encouraged to observe the drill.
More than 2 million people across eight states and Washington, D.C., are to take part in the Great Southeast ShakeOut, which is an international effort in which participants simultaneously practice how to stay safe during an earthquake. Worldwide, 25 million people are expected to participate.
South Carolina has good reason to take note of the risk of earthquakes:
• 10 low-magnitude earthquakes have been recorded in the state since October 2016.
• Approximately 10 to 20 earthquakes occur in the state every year, according to geologists with the College of Charleston.
• The epicenter of the largest earthquake ever recorded along the Eastern Seaboard was just outside of Charleston on Aug. 31, 1886. The 7.3 magnitude quake devastated the region and was felt from Chicago to Cuba.
According to a study commissioned by SCEMD, an earthquake of similar magnitude would result in tremendous loss of life, severe property damage and extreme economic loss. Results of the study are detailed in the South Carolina Earthquake Guide, a publication that details South Carolina-specific information on what citizens should do before, during and after a major earthquake. It is available at no cost statewide via the Senior P.R.E.P. section at every Walgreens store.
The Bowman area is considered a central point for potential earthquake activity. The town is situated on the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone which, along with the Ravenel-Adams Run-Hollywood area near Charleston, experiences about 70 percent of the earthquake activity in the state, according to the SCEMD.
And The T&D Region is no stranger to quakes.
- People from Cope to Cameron felt an earthquake that hit 3.4 on the Richter scale on May 19, 1971. The only damage reported was broken windows.
- On Feb. 3, 1972, an earthquake hit the area again. Residents of Bowman confirmed the quake felt stronger than previous ones they remembered.
- Three earthquakes were reported in the Neeses area in 1992, the largest hitting 2.4 on the Richter scale. And a 2.3-magnitude quake occurred in Bowman in 1997.
- In March 2009, another 2.6-magnitude earthquake occurred halfway between Orangeburg and Aiken counties. No damage or injuries were reported.
- In 2011, as South Carolina was hearing early predictions of Hurricane Irene scoring a direct hit on the state, Aug. 26 produced the strongest earthquake felt on the East Coast in years. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake ranks as the second strongest ever measured in Virginia. Near the epicenter, brick house walls cracked, and chimneys were thrown down or badly damaged, according to the USGS. Minor damage was observed from about Bristol, Tennessee, to Roanoke, Virginia.
Officials say they are as prepared as they can be for a quake, with rescue teams and emergency responders being trained regularly on structural collapse and emergency response. Thursday is your individual opportunity at preparedness.
The Great ShakeOut drill is open to everyone in South Carolina. You can still register. Go to www.shakeout.org/southeast. Be sure to include the total number of people taking part in the drill with you.