Small earthquake surprises Columbia County residents

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March 14, 2007

COLUMBIA CTY, Ga.---A small earthquake hit Columbia County last night, prompting several calls to the Emergency Management office.

Neighbors are still a little shaken.

The Savannah River Site says the 1.8 magnitude quake happened at 11:20 last night near Ray Owens, Ridge, and Hardy McManus roads.

Some people say they thought it was a meth lab, others a train collision. But one thing the stories have in common was the loud noise.

Water director Billy Clayton says he thought propane tanks caused the big noise.

"It was a really loud explosion, and it made us wonder what it was. Then the whole house rattled," he said.

He says it only lasted seconds. Then he immediately called Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker to find out what was going on.

"When 911 called and told me their calls were coming from such a widespread area, I knew it was something big...a sonic boom, an earthquake. It kind of narrowed it down for me," Tucker told News 12.

"It shook our whole house," said one woman in a 911 call released to News 12 from the Columbia County Sheriff's Department. "It sounded like a bomb went off."

Tucker says everyone seemed to think the sound was coming from under their house. Actually, it was happening in an area around Hardy McManus Road, less than ten miles from the Thurmond Dam.

Tucker says the 1.8 magnitude quake only seemed like it was in everyone's backyard because it was a shallow earthquake.

"I didn't know we had earthquakes here...and I certainly wasn't expecting one last night," said Rev. Cynthia Taylor, who saw her windows vibrate.

This isn't the first shake-up on our fault lines. There were three earthquakes in January 2005 and one in February 2002. Billy Clayton hopes it's a trend that won't continue.

"It was my first earthquake," he said. "It was kind of exciting, but I don't want to experience it again."

Tucker says the only fault line of major concern is the Charleston fault line. A 7.7 magnitude earthquake on that line back in 1886 caused a train crash and killed 60 people. In this case, she says there's no damage--people are just a little shaken up.

Tucker says a 1.8 magnitude earthquake is very's only enough to cause mild vibrations.

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