4 more tremors add to South Carolina’s longest string of earthquakes

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Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 5:11 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - South Carolina may be seeing its longest swarm of earthquakes in a monthslong stretch of tremors that are centered in Elgin and sometimes felt as far away as Augusta.

The current swarm began Dec. 27 with a magnitude-3.3 earthquake centered near Elgin. Since then, around 50 low-magnitude earthquakes have occurred in the Elgin-Lugoff area, with the strongest being a magnitude-3.6 quake Wednesday.

It was among eight earthquakes in the Palmetto State on Wednesday, some of which were felt in Augusta.

Then there were more on Thursday in Kershaw County: A 2.4-magnitude quake at 12:23 a.m., a 2.02-magnitude quake at 5:22 a.m., a 2.1-magnitude quake around 8:45 p.m. and a 1.1-magnitude quake at 9:05 p.m.

South Carolina has experienced thousands of earthquakes like these throughout the state’s history, according to state Geologist Scott Howard.

What makes these 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.”

Seismologists don’t think the low-magnitude quakes are indicators of larger earthquakes to come.

The Piedmont Fault System is made up of several smaller fault lines that stretch across the middle of South Carolina, according to Dr. Steven C. Jaume’, an expert at the College of Charleston.

“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,” Jaume’ said.

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

South Carolina was at the center of major earthquakes in the past, said South Carolina Emergency Management Division Director Kim Stenson.

“We all need to be prepared for the possibility of a large-scale earthquake, however unlikely the possibility may be,” Stenson said.

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.

Other notable earthquakes to occur in South Carolina include a magnitude-4.3 earthquake centered in Union County on Jan. 1, 1913, and a magnitude-4.1 earthquake centered in Edgefield County the night of Feb. 14, 2014.

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