South Carolina earthquakes aren’t likely to stop anytime soon

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 1:02 PM EDT
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LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) - The Elgin area is seeing another swarm of earthquakes this week – at least seven so far.

Prepare to feel a few more.

A 3.29-magnitude shake woke people up Monday night in Elgin, in Kershaw County. People felt the tremors from the Georgia-South Carolina state line all the way to Rock Hill. There have been six more since then, plus North Carolina felt an earthquake Wednesday morning.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division says it is somewhat normal to have more earthquakes and aftershocks, so it will be a bumpy ride the next few weeks.

“If we had been sleeping I don’t think we would have felt a thing,” says Mandy Powers Norrell, who lives in Lancaster and felt the tremors.

While most people were tucked in their beds, the Earth was awake.

“I heard the rumble. I felt the rumble. And I said, ‘Mitch do you feel that?’” she said.

What Mandy Powers Norell was feeling, was an earthquake. The 3.29, with an epicenter 40-miles away from her. She had experienced another 7.0+ earthquake in New Zealand back in 2016.

“I got online and it was like a party at 2 a.m. with everyone I knew. Everyone was like, ‘This is an earthquake; who can feel an earthquake?’” she said.

The earthquake shook up social media with tweets and posts about the rumbling underground. People thought it was everything from a train, to thunder and even an explosion. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division even got in on the fun as a second, third, fourth and even fifth earthquake came and went.

“I assumed it was in Elgin. Cause every time I hear about an earthquake in our area it’s general centered in the Elgin area,” she says.

Powers Norrell was spot on. Maps show the earthquakes hit that exact area, a hotbed for earthquakes in the last year.

On average, the state has less than 20 quakes annually.

“We might call this an earthquake swarm,” said Scott White, a professor at University of South Carolina who serves as director of South Carolina Seismic Network.

“We’ve had about 32 earthquakes in this swarm. They span from a little bit less than 1.5 up to 3.3,” White said.

Unlike weather, White said quakes are unpredictable and can happen at any moment.

“They’re all related to the release of stress in the Earth’s crust where two big blocks of rock kind of slowly jag against each other and break,” White said.

What’s causing so many quakes? Experts said it’s a mystery.

“Our understanding of earthquake swarms and their triggers is still not really great in the field,” White said, “It’s a tricky thing to answer how the Earth relieves itself of stress.”

The recent swarm of quakes have hit along the Eastern Piedmont Fault System which runs diagonally through the state and directly through the Midlands.

Powers Norrell cares about the science, but more importantly, the feels of living through the ground moving underneath her.

“The Earth could just open up and swallow me if it wanted to. So that is comforting in many ways because it let’s me know that as much as I worry about there’s really no need to worry because we’re not in control of anything,” says Powers Norrell.

From reports by WBTV and WHNS