Earthquakes in SC: Experts say they’re a mystery

Updated: Jan. 6, 2022 at 11:05 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Ten earthquakes have shaken South Carolina in the last ten days, and experts are stumped about the recent uptick.

“On the one hand, they’re not something to lose too much sleep over but there is the possibility we could have a large earthquake in the future,” Dr. Thomas Pratt, research geophysicist with U.S. Geological Survey, said.

The quakes hit Elgin and Lugoff multiple times between December 27 and January 5.

The state typically experiences less than twenty earthquakes a year and geologists are puzzled by the continuing quakes.

“It’s a mystery because we’re not near a plate down there and most earthquakes occur as the plates rub against each other, but we’re not near one in South Carolina, Pratt said, “It’s not clear why we’re getting these little earthquakes.”

Dr. Pratt said the recent uptick is hard to explain, but history could provide some answers.

“There is a very small chance that these are foreshocks to a much larger earthquake. That’s what happened in Charleston, South Carolina in 1886. They had several small earthquakes that led up to a magnitude 7 that did extensive damage,” Dr. Pratt said.

“we never know whether these small earthquakes are leading to something bigger or not. there’s just no way to really know”

The 1886 earthquake took out much of the city of Charleston. It damaged buildings, destroyed homes, and killed sixty people.

It’s the largest quake to hit the Southeastern United States, but could it happen again?

“If the same thing were to happen today with a much larger population and much greater infrastructure, it would obviously be a much more concerning earthquake,” Dr. Pratt said, “The chances that these are leading to something big are very small but there is that very small possibility that these are foreshocks to something much larger, but we just don’t know.”