First earthquake of the month in Columbia area confirmed after a quiet stretch

It had been more than three weeks since an earthquake rumbled through the Columbia area, but that quiet stretch came to an end Tuesday.

A 1.9 magnitude earthquake was confirmed in the Elgin area at 11:01 a.m., the South Carolina Emergency Management Division said. It was the first earthquake to hit the Midlands in September.

The earthquake happened about 2 miles beneath the surface, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

This was the first seismic activity in South Carolina since a 1.5 magnitude quake was recorded in the Lowcountry on Sept. 1, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. A 1.6 magnitude earthquake on Aug. 27 was the last quake recorded in the Midlands before Tuesday’s tremors.

There have been 40 confirmed earthquakes in Kershaw County since the end of June, according to the South Carolina DNR.

On June 29, two earthquakes — one a 3.5 magnitude and the other 3.6 — were included in that flurry of tremors and aftershocks. Those were the two largest quakes to hit South Carolina in nearly a decade. A 4.1-magnitude quake struck McCormick County in 2014.

Anyone who felt Tuesday’s earthquake can report it to the USGS.

FWhZm6UXEAELE85.jpgThe South Carolina Emergency Management Division map of fault lines in the Palmetto State where there has been a swarm of earthquakes.

The most recent earthquake means at least 71 have been detected in the Palmetto State since the start of 2022, according to South Carolina DNR. All but seven of the quakes have been in the Midlands.

In all, 71 earthquakes have hit the Columbia area since a 3.3-magnitude quake was recorded Dec. 27, 2021, according to the DNR.

No major damage or injuries have been reported from any of the recent quakes.

Earthquakes that register 2.5 magnitude or less often go unnoticed and are usually only recorded by a seismograph, according to Michigan Technological University. Any quake less than 5.5 magnitude is not likely to cause significant damage, the school said.

It is typical for South Carolina to have between six and 10 earthquakes a year, the S.C. Geological Survey previously reported. There have been 98 earthquakes in South Carolina since Jan. 18, 2021, according to DNR.

During a recent town hall to address the earthquakes, state geologist Scott Howard said as many as 200 smaller tremors might have gone unnoticed and unrecorded.

Why the increase in earthquakes?

An explanation for the recent outburst has eluded scientists.

Some experts have theorized there’s a link between the Wateree River and the earthquakes northeast of Columbia. They said the combination of a single moderate earthquake in December and high water levels in the Wateree River during parts of this year have contributed to the earthquakes. But no one has settled on the single cause for the Midlands’ shaking.

Elgin, located about 20 miles northeast of Columbia and situated on a fault line, has been experiencing an unusual earthquake “swarm” for the past several months, leaving some residents feeling uneasy. The series of quakes might be the longest period of earthquake activity in the state’s history, officials said. But officials have said they don’t believe the spate of minor earthquakes is an indicator that a bigger quake could be on the way.

“Though the frequency of these minor earthquakes may alarm some, we do not expect a significantly damaging earthquake in South Carolina at this time, even though we know our state had them decades ago,” South Carolina EMD Director Kim Stenson previously said in a news release. “Now is the time to review your insurance policies for earthquake coverage, secure any items in your home that may become hazards during a tremor, and remember to Drop, Cover, and Hold on until the shaking passes. These are the precautions South Carolinians can take to properly prepare for earthquakes.”

The strongest earthquake ever recorded in South Carolina — and on the East Coast of the U.S. — was a devastating 7.3 in Charleston in 1886.

That quake killed 60 people and was felt over 2.5 million square miles, from Cuba to New York and Bermuda to the Mississippi River, according to the state EMD.

Reported earthquakes in SC in 2021-22

Date/LocationMagnitudeDepth (km)Jan. 18/Dalzell2.16.9Feb. 13/Summerville2.15.1May 12/Heath Springs1.89.99May 31/Summit2.61.7May 31/Summit2.05.1July 16/Ladson2.04.0July 22/Ladson1.33.5July 22/Ladson1.953.97Aug. 21/Centerville1.751.97Aug. 21/Centerville1.713.37Sept. 27/Summerville2.86.0Sept. 27/Summerville2.05.8Sept. 27/Centerville3.36.8Oct. 25/Jenkinsville2.23.8Oct. 26/Jenkinsville1.80.0Oct. 28/Jenkinsville1.81.8Oct. 28/Jenkinsville1.70.0Oct. 28/Jenkinsville2.14.2Oct. 31/Jenkinsville2.30.1Nov. 1/Jenkinsville2.05.1Nov. 9/Centerville1.53.8Nov. 16/Arial2.25.4Dec. 20/Ladson1.12.8Dec. 27/Lugoff3.33.2Dec. 27/Lugoff2.52.4Dec. 27/Elgin2.10.7Dec. 27/Lugoff1.74.9Dec. 29/Elgin2.31.6Dec. 30/Elgin2.52.5Dec. 30/Elgin2.43.8Jan. 3/Lugoff2.52.7Jan. 5/Lugoff2.60.5Jan. 5/Lugoff1.57.0Jan. 9/Ladson1.42.9Jan. 11/Elgin1.75.4Jan. 11/Lugoff2.03.2Jan. 11/Elgin1.35.0Jan. 15/Elgin1.83.5Jan. 19/Elgin1.95.0Jan. 21/Elgin1.94.8Jan. 27/Lugoff2.11.0Feb. 2/Elgin1.53.9March 4/Elgin1.82.8March 9/Elgin2.23.6March 11/Camden2.11.2March 27/Lugoff2.11.9March 28/Centerville0.92.9April 7/Elgin2.02.9April 8/Centerville1.63.6April 22/Ladson1.13.5April 22/Taylors2.22.3May 9/Elgin3.33.1May 9/Elgin1.62.9May 9/Elgin1.784.1May 9/Elgin2.13.7May 9/Elgin2.95.6May 10/Elgin2.33.9May 10/Elgin2.86.2May 19/Elgin1.82.5May 21/Elgin1.95.6June 26/Elgin1.884.09June 29/Elgin3.52.64June 29/Elgin1.882.92June 29/Elgin3.62.95June 29/Elgin1.792.07June 29/Elgin1.513.72June 29/Elgin1.461.93June 29/Elgin2.062.22June 30/Elgin2.323.09June 30/Elgin1.442.8June 30/Elgin2.033.11June 30/Elgin2.152.56June 30/Elgin2.061.92June 30/Elgin1.492.46July 1/Elgin1.553.37July 1/Elgin2.113.83July 1/Elgin1.263.3July 1/Elgin1.684.02July 2/Elgin2.091.65July 3/Elgin1.92.1July 3/Lugoff1.63.2July 3/Elgin1.41.96July 3/Elgin1.15.0July 7/Elgin2.14.0July 8/Elgin1.62.5July 8/Elgin1.43.8July 14/Elgin1.32.5July 15/Elgin1.63.3July 18/Elgin1.23.2July 19/Elgin2.21.8July 19/Elgin2.13.2July 24/Lugoff2.32.4July 25/Lugoff2.12.2July 30/Elgin1.83.6July 31/Elgin1.71.6Aug. 3/Elgin1.83.0Aug. 9/Boykin1.66.9Aug. 15/Elgin1.53.6Aug. 18/Homeland Park2.10.03Aug. 27/Elgin1.32.4Sept. 1/Centerville1.50.7Sept. 21/Elgin1.93.2

September 21, 2022 | State, The: Web Edition Articles (Columbia, SC)
Author/Byline: Noah Feit, The State | Section: environment

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