Earthquake Swarm Highlights Safety

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The United States Geological Survey to date has confirmed seven low-magnitude earthquakes in and around Jenkinsville, South Carolina since October 25. The most recent earthquake confirmed by USGS occurred just before 11 a.m. today and registered a 2.0 magnitude. Seismologists believe these low-magnitude quakes, while unusual, are normal background activity and are not indicators of larger earthquakes to come.

“Earthquake swarms are not an uncommon occurrence in the vicinity of the Monticello Reservoir – a much larger swarm of microearthquakes occurred as the reservoir was first filled starting in December 1977,” explained Dr. Steven C. Jaume’ with the College of Charleston’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences Department. “Thousands of earthquakes, none larger than magnitude 2.9, occurred in the years that followed. Earthquake activity declined in the late 1980’s through the mid-1990’s, but then picked up again in late 1996. Between December 1996 and mid-1999 several more earthquake swarms occurred, with nearly 1,000 earthquakes occurring at that time, with the largest being a magnitude 2.5.”

More earthquakes are possible for the next several months or even years in the area near the Monticello Reservoir, according to Jaume’, and how frequently they occur cannot be predicted.

Twenty earthquakes have been recorded throughout South Carolina since January 2021. The Palmetto State normally experiences an average of 10-20 earthquakes each year. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division encourages all residents to stay informed about earthquake activity in the state, and to have a family emergency plan in the event of a major earthquake.

“We know our state was at the center of major earthquakes in the past. We all need to be prepared for the possibility of a large-scale earthquake, however unlikely the possibility may be,” SCEMD Director Kim Stenson said.

The epicenter of the largest earthquake ever recorded along the eastern United States seaboard was just outside of Charleston on August 31, 1886. The 7.3 magnitude quake devastated the region and was felt from Chicago to Cuba. According to a study commissioned by SCEMD, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurring today would result in tremendous loss of life, severe property damage and extreme economic loss. Results of the study are detailed in the South Carolina Earthquake Guide.

Residents can keep track of all earthquakes in South Carolina and even get notified when one occurs using the earthquake map tools located within the SC Emergency Manager mobile app, available in the App Store and on Google Play.

Additional earthquake resources are available through The Great Southeast Shakeout and through the South Carolina Earthquake Education and Preparedness program.