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Sunday, February 16, 2014

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Our ancestors knew about South Carolina earthquakes

Near the close of Valentine's Day, some people were still without power as a result of a icy Winter storm which crippled the state for a few days.  Others, like myself were winding down for the day with our Valentines when all of South Carolina and part of Georgia and North Carolina went through about 6 to 8 seconds of the shakes.

USGS Interactive Fault Map
An earthquake?

The thought of it being an earthquake was far from my mind.  My husband turned and said, "My that helicopter is flying mighty low."  I actually thought it was the after effects of a bomb, but I did not say so.  I did not feel one ounce of fear, I just braced myself and waited until it was over, trusting that if the situation called for more than that, I would receive an internal warning.

I immediately went back to preparing to retire when not long after, our newlywed Valentines entered from an evening dinner date and asked, "What did you think of that earthquake?"  I honestly did not believe them.  I had even forgotten about what had just happened. I went to Google to find the latest news, and sure enough it was confirmed by USA Today that many others had felt it in South Carolina on the scale of at least 4.1. 

I took to the internet looking up fault lines to discover South Carolina is full of them and that we have earthquakes all the time. We just do not notice them since none of the recent ones have been much over 2.0.  What shocked me was that this is not common knowledge, and I do not see a great effort to educate people about creating emergency plans.

Get educated

According to the South Carolina Earthquake Awareness Project which has more up-to-date information on how to prepare for the risk of a future earthquake than local or state websites cautions that as of 2012 only one in every thousand South Carolinians are aware of the history of hazardous earthquakes in this state or know how to prepare for one. 

Yet this reality—and the threat of future catastrophic South Carolina earthquakes—is virtually unknown to the vast majority of the state's residents and the millions of people who visit here. In 2008, 122 years after the Great Charleston Earthquake, the residents of South Carolina have no greater awareness of the state's earthquake hazards than they had in 1886. The reasons are twofold. First, no one living in South Carolina since their birth has experienced a catastrophic earthquake here. Second, no government agency in the history of the state has attempted to put useful earthquake awareness and preparation information directly into the hands of all the people. As a result, less than one South Carolinian in 1,000 is actively aware of the state's earthquake history and hazards -- or how to prepare for "the next big one." See South Carolina Earthquake Awareness Project.
This presentation from the South Carolina Earthquake Education and Preparedness Program is definitely outdated, but it brought me up to speed on where fault lines are know to exist, where earthquakes occur in South Carolina, and the potential hazards that occur as the result of earthquakes here like Tsunamis and the liquefying of the earth because of all the sand we are sitting on.  I searched for "South Carolina earthquake preparedness" and found a bunch of outdated sites, so for now I am trusting this one from the USGS.  Let me know if you know of something better.

1886 earthquake

All this research on earthquakes brought to mind oral history that I came across while researching my family in Union County.  You can easily research the 1886 earthquake that devastated Charleston, but what is impressive to me is the WPA account given from a Union County resident:

Things run along alright till the night of Aug. 31, '86.  Dat' earth sho' wuz' a-shaking av'ywhars' and things wuz fallin', The Lord or somethin' had things by the hand that night.  Next day the Lawd heerd' folks prayers and stipped hat earth's gwine's on.  Of all the ups and all the downs I sec' dat the worses' skeert' I is ever been,"  Eison Lyles, January 20, 1938 (recalling the earthquake of 1886).
Caldwell Sims, Voices of the Past, (Union, South Carolina: Union County Historical Foundation, 1979), 63.  


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