After four consecutive years of being impacted by tropical systems and the weeks spent tracking the threat of Hurricane Dorian in 2019, South Carolina may get fortunate: No more hurricanes this year. Officially, the season runs through November, but the chances of impact are diminishing with each passing day.
Yet there is the need for preparedness for all kinds of natural disasters. This week, the focus is earthquakes.
Gov. Henry McMaster has proclaimed Earthquake Awareness Week for Oct. 13-19. 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 highlight of the week will be the Great Southeast ShakeOut on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 10:17 a.m.
More than 2 million people across eight states and Washington, D.C., will take part in the Great SouthEast ShakeOut earthquake safety drill. The regional drill is part of an international effort in which participants simultaneously practice how to stay safe during an earthquake — “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” For most people, in most situations, this means to:
- DROP where you are, onto your hands and knees.
- COVER your head and neck with one arm and hand, as you crawl for shelter under a nearby table or desk.
- HOLD ON to your shelter with one hand until shaking stops (remain on your knees and covering your head and neck with your other arm and hand).
Schools, businesses, organizations, government agencies, communities, and households are encouraged to participate in the drill. Worldwide, 25 million people are expected to take part.
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South Carolina has good reason to note the risk of quakes. South Carolina experiences approximately 10 to 20 earthquakes a year, according to geologists with the College of Charleston. Since October 2018, there have been eight low-magnitude quakes in the state.
The epicenter of the largest earthquake ever recorded along the East Coast 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 occurring today would result in tremendous loss of life, severe property damage and extreme economic loss.
Locally, 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% of the earthquake activity in the state, according to the SCEMD.
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 an earthquake, with rescue teams and emergency responders being trained regularly on structural collapse and emergency response. Thursday is your individual opportunity at preparedness.
The Great SouthEast ShakeOut drill is open to everyone in South Carolina. To register, go to www.shakeout.org/southeast.