Gen. James C. Minott's house, Summerville, S.C. Credit U.S. Geological Survey The William M. Bird & Co. paint store, 205 East Bay Street, Charleston. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

 

PREPARING FOR EARTHQUAKES IN SOUTH CAROLINA

www.scearthquakes.com

Revised July 28,2012

List of South Carolina's most recent earthquakes

This site is maintained by Richard N. Côté, director of the South Carolina Earthquake Awareness Project and author of City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886. It is totally independent, is maintained as a public service, but neither receives nor seeks any public funding. Private donations are welcome. Telephone: (843) 881-6080 / Fax: (843) 278-8456 / email: dickcote@earthlink.net

Home Page
Present-day
Hazards
Recent S.C.
Earthquakes
South Carolina's
Earthquake History
The Great Earthquake
of 1886
Earthquake
Damage Photos
by county
Earthquakes since
1886
"The Next
Big One"
Preparing
your Family
Preparing
your Home
Preparing
your School
What to do
during an
Earthquake
What to do
after an
Earthquake

Earthquakes? In South Carolina? When Americans think of earthquakes, California comes first to mind; others note the serious earthquake hazards of Alaska and Missouri. But unknown to virtually all Americans—South Carolinians included—the Palmetto State also has a long and violent earthquake history that continues to the present day. The two pictures above show the catastrophic degree of property damage from the Great Charleston Earthquake of August 31, 1886, in Summerville (left) and Charleston (right), during which over one hundred twenty-four people were killed and hundreds more severely injured. The state is home to one of the most active earthquake-producing regions in North America, a twenty-five by fifteen-mile oval known as the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone, whose center lies about twenty-two miles northwest of Charleston.

The 1886 Great Charleston Earthquake was the largest, most destructive, and most lethal earthquake ever to strike east of the Mississippi. To this day, it dominates the seismic history of the entire East Coast. It struck without warning and caused far more deaths, injuries, and property damage than Hurricane Hugo, a Category IV hurricane (1989). It was also larger and more destructive than the 1989 Loma Prieta, California earthquake, which killed 63 people, destroyed much of the San Fransicso Bay Marina district, broke the upper span of the Oakland Bay Bridge, pancaked freeways, and blacked out the World Series telecast.

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."

Until now, people seeking concise, accurate information on South Carolina's earthquakes and their hazards faced a major challenge. Comprehensive information was impossible to find in any one place, because federal, state, and local government websites typically provide information solely from their own base of expertise, mission, or point of view. In addition, some of that information is either either inaccurate or as much as forty years out of date.

This website is the result of three years of research and close consultation with the foremost South Carolina and national earthquake and disaster response experts. It is based on the latest scientific information currently available. Here, in one place, you will find accurate, up-to-date, personally useful information that can help you prepare your family, home, and school for the risks posed by future earthquakes in South Carolina.


PRESENT-DAY HAZARDS

Charleston mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. (at left, and Richard N. Côté, director of the S.C. Earthquake Memorial Society. The threat of earthquakes is a constant presence in South Carolina. In recent years, earthquake hazards have received top-level official recognition from the state's leaders. In 1986, South Carolina governor Richard W. Riley proclaimed the week of August 24 - 31 as South Carolina Earthquake Safety Week. In 2006, on the 120th anniversary of the Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886, Charleston's mayor, Joseph P. Riley, Jr. (on the left, with Richard N. Côté), proclaimed August 31 as Charleston Earthquake Memorial Day, in honor of the one hundred twenty-four people known to have died and the hundreds more who were wounded in the 1886 earthquake.

Since 1886, there have a number of medium-sized (and thousands of small) earthquakes in South Carolina, but few have been large enough to gain more than fleeting attention. Except for the highly visible "earthquake bolts" in Charleston, there is little visible evidence of former earthquake damage in South Carolina. Because it has been over one hundred twenty years since the last catastrophic earthquake, and because there is so little visual evidence of earthquake damage today, the current population of South Carolina is as unaware of earthquake threats as it was in 1886. Given the destructive potential of the next major earthquake, this lack of public awareness and preparation could lead to a substantial—and needless—loss of life and property.

South Carolina earthquake intensities, by county. The relative severity of earthquake damage to various areas of the state from a present-day repeat of the 1886 earthquake is shown by the map to the right. The damage scale used here runs from I (no damage) to XII (so far not experienced in South Carolina, where there is total destruction of all man-made structures).


RECENT SOUTH CAROLINA EARTHQUAKES

For full details and a map of the locations of South Carolina's earthquakes in the last six months, click here for a map generated by the U.S. Geological Survey. The most recent South Carolina earthquakes occurred as follows:


2012: As of July 28, 2012, there have already been twelve earthquakes in South Carolina, the greatest number in any of the past five complete years.

  • July 24, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 2.0 on the Richter scale, and originated 35 miles east of Hodges at a depth of approximately 1.6 miles underground.
  • June 30, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 2.4 on the Richter scale, and originated 3 miles northwest of Hodges at a depth of approximately 2.8 miles underground.
  • June 7, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 1.9 on the Richter scale, and originated 7 miles north of Greenwood at a depth of approximately 0.1 miles underground.
  • May 21, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 1.0 on the Richter scale, and originated 6 miles south of Summerville at a depth of approximately 2.7 miles underground.
  • April 23, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 2.3 on the Richter scale, and originated 25 miles east of Aiken at a depth of approximately 0.1 miles underground.
  • March 21, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 2.3 on the Richter scale, and originated 4 miles east of Summerville at a depth of approximately 2.9 miles underground.
  • February 5, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 1.6 on the Richter scale, and originated 4 miles miles south-southeast of Summerville at a depth of approximately 2.9 miles underground.
  • January 26, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 2.0 on the Richter scale, and originated nine miles northwest of Columbia. It originated from approximately 0.1 miles underground.
  • January 9, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 1.5 on the Richter scale, and originated five miles south of Summerville. It originated from approximately 3.9 smiles underground.
  • January 6, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 2.0 on the Richter scale, and originated nine miles northwest of Columbia. It originated from approximately 4.0 miles underground.
  • January 4, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 2.6 on the Richter scale, and originated four miles south of Summervile. It originated from approximately 3.1 miles underground.
  • January 1, 2012. The minor earthquake registered 1.4 onthe Richter scale, and originated six miles south of Summervile, SC. It originated from approximately 4.0 miles underground.


    2011: ten earthquakes.

  • December 21, 2011. The minor earthquake registered 2.6 on the Richter scale, and originated six miles south-southwest of Summerville, SC. It originated from approximately 2.5 miles underground.
  • December 13, 2011. The minor earthquake registered 1.8 onthe Richter scale, and originated 36 miles northwest of Columbia, SC. It originated from approximately 2.4 miles underground.
  • December 7, 2011. The minor earthquake registered 2.2 on the Richter scale, and originated six miles south-southwest of Summervile, SC, appriximately 3.2 miles underground.
  • December 2, 2011. The minor earthquake registered 2.2 on the Richter scale, and originated five miles ___of Summerville, SC. It originated from approximately 2.5 miles underground. [under investigation for accuracy: RNC]
  • October 15, 2011. The minor earthquake registered 2.5 on the Richter scale, and originated three miles westsouthwest of Summerville, SC. It originated from approximately 5.0 miles underground.
  • October 10, 2011. The minor earthquake registered 2.1 on the Richter scale, and originated three miles west of Williston, SC. It originated from approximately 6.2 miles underground.
  • August 28, 2011. The minor earthquake registered 2.3 on the Richter scale, and originated twenty-three miles southeast of Greenville, South Carolina. It originated from approximately 0.1 miles (500 feet +/-!) underground.
  • June 24, 2011. The minor earthquake registered 2.3 on the Richter scale, and originated seven miles north of Camden, South Carolina. It originated from approximately 0.5 miles underground.
  • March 21, 2011. The minor earthquake registered 2.5 on the Richter scale, and originated four miles north-northeast of Chesterfield, Chesterfield County, South Carolina. It originated from approximately 0.5 miles underground.
  • February 25, 2011. The minor earthquake registered 1.5 on the Richter scale, and originated six miles south-southease of Summerville, Dorchester County, South Carolina. It originated from approximately 0.6 miles underground.

    2010: two earthquakes.

  • October 28, 2010. The minor earthquake registered 2.5 on the Richter scale, and originated near Pacolet, thirty-five miles east of Greenville, Greenville County, South Carolina. It originated from approximately 2.6 miles underground.
  • May 12, 2010. The minor earthquake registered 2.8 on the Richter scale, and originated seven miles south-southeast of Summerville, Dorchester County and 16 miles northwest of Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina. It originated from approximately 0.8 miles underground.


    2009: eight earthquakes

  • September 13, 2009. The minor earthquake registered 1.5 on the Richter scale, and originated 19 miles north-northwest of Columbia, Richland County. It originated from approximately 0.6 miles underground.
  • August 29, 2009. The minor earthquake registered 3.2 on the Richter scale, and originated one mile northeast of Summerville, Dorchester County. It originated from approximately 3.1 miles underground.
  • July 10, 2009. The micro earthquake registered 1.7 on the Richter scale, and originated eleven miles south of Summerville, Dorchester County. It originated from approximately 2 miles underground.
  • May 6, 2009. The minor earthquake registered 2.5 on the Richter scale, and originated one mile east-northeast of Summerville, Dorchester County. It originated from approximately 3.2 miles underground.
  • March 27, 2009. The minor earthquake registered 2.5 on the Richter scale, and originated two miles east-southeast of Williston, Barnwell County. It originated from approximately 1.1 miles underground.
  • March 19, 2009. The minor earthquake registered 2.1 on the Richter scale, and originated twenty-four miles north-northwest of Columbia, Richland County. It originated from approximately 0.8 miles underground.
  • March 18, 2009. The minor earthquake registered 2.3 on the Richter scale, and originated twenty-six miles north-northwest of Columbia, Richland County. It originated from approximately 0.5 miles underground.
  • January 29, 2009. The minor earthquake registered 2.5 on the Richter scale, and originated two miles south-southwest of Summerville, Dorchester County. It originated from approximately 4.0 miles underground.


    2008: one earthquake

  • December 16, 2008. The minor earthquake registered 3.6 on the Richter scale, and originated four miles north of Summerville, Dorchester County. It originated from approximately 10.0 miles underground.


    2007: four earthquakes

  • October 13, 2007. The minor earthquake registered 2.4 on the Richter scale, and originated one mile north-northeast of Hanahan, Charleston County, South Carolina. It originated from approximately 1.9 miles underground.
  • July 19, 2007. The minor earthquake registered 2.7 on the Richter scale originated in the Aiken-Augusta fault area. It occurred in Georgia about 25 miles northwest of North Augusta, South Carolina. It originated from approximately 3.1 miles underground.
  • May 24, 2007. The minor earthquake registering 2.4 on the Richter scale occurred about twelve miles southeast of Columbia, SC. It originated from about 6.2 miles underground.
  • March 13, 2007. The minor earthquake registering 2.1 on the Richter scale occurred about nine miles south of McCormick, McCormick County, SC. It originated from approximately 3.0 miles underground.


    2006

  • September 25, 2006. The minor earthquake registering 3.7 on the Richter Scale occurred near Society Hill, Cheraw, and Bennettsville, South Carolina, close to the North Carolina border. It originated from approximately 3.1 miles underground.
  • September 22, 2006. The minor earthquake registering 3.5 on the Richter Scale occurred in the same area as the one on September 25. It cracked some windows and rattled dishes in cupboards. "We had some folks saying the whole house shook. We have had some folks saying it was shaking so badly they they got outside," said Roy Allison, Emergency Manager for Marlboro County.

    Data for earthquakes before September 22, 2006 has not yet been entered.

    To receive an automated email whenever there is an earthquake in South Carolina (or any other region you choose), you may click the green ENS button and sign up for this free service of the U. S. Geological Survey Earthquake Notification Service.


    SOUTH CAROLINA'S EARTHQUAKE HISTORY

    A house on Tradd Street, Charleston, after the 1886 earthquake. Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey For tens of thousands of years, earthquakes have occurred—and continue to occcur every year—in all regions of the state. About seventy percent of all South Carolina earthquakes originate from the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone. In addition, earthquakes generated outside the state's boundaries also pose threats to South Carolina. Until 1886, the nation's top scientists thought that earthquakes east of the Missippi River were impossible, but that was based on a lack of information. The state's long recorded history of seismic events had simply been forgotten.

    The earliest recorded earthquake shock in the state occurred in February 1698. Additional earthquakes were recorded in 1754, 1755, 1757, 1776, and 1799. In 1811 and 1812, South Carolina experienced many shocks, some severe, which were generated seven hundred miles away by the massive New Madrid, Missouri, earthquake series. In 1814, "Columbia felt two severe shocks, one of which rent in twain a massive wall facing the buildings in the campus of the South Carolina college." Additional earthquakes were felt in South Carolina in 1816, 1817, 1820, 1837, 1843, 1853, 1857 (the most violent earthquake since 1754), 1860, 1869, 1876, 1879, and 1885. The next year, "The Big One" arrived.


    THE GREAT CHARLESTON EARTHQUAKE OF 1886

    City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886. Small to moderate earthquakes had been felt in Summerville in the five days preceding the 1886 catastrophe, but few people outside of the village paid any attention to them. The Great Charleston Earthquake roared out of the night on August 31, 1886, at 9:51 p.m. Another strong shock followed eight minutes later, and six more were felt within the following twenty-four hours. The 1886 earthquake would have registered as a magnitude 7.3 earthquake on the Richter Scale (which did not exist at that time). The catastrophic Charleston-Summerville earthquake was felt over an astounding 2.5-million-square-mile area: north to Toronto, south to Cuba, west to Omaha, and east to Maine and Bermuda. It was experienced by two-thirds of all people living in the United States at the time. The destruction of life and property was staggering:

    • At least one hundred and twenty-four people died in South Carolina and Georgia as a result of the 1886 earthquake. About forty were killed by falling chimneys, cornices, and walls in Charleston during the first two shocks at 9:51 and 9:58 p.m.
    • One hundred forty severely injured people have been identified; the actual number was probably at least three times larger.
    • Three fatal train wrecks occured at the same instant in three different locations in South Carolina. Dam failures leading to large-scale flooding near Langley, Aiken County, South Carolina, caused the fatal derailment of two railroad trains and the drowning of an unknown number of people in that area. A northbound train headed for Summerville was derailed and its fireman was killed. A southbound train from Columbia with over one hundred passengers was thrown into the air but escaped disaster.
    • All three of Charleston's main medical facilities—the City Hospital, Roper Hospital, and the Medical College of South Carolina—were instantly destroyed.
    • Half of the city's fire stations and their fire engines were put at least temporarily out of service.
    • The city's water system was disabled for hours until emergency repairs could be made. As a result, the entire city block of buildings on King Street between Broad and Queen streets burned to the ground because there was no water to pump to fight the flames.
    • The main police station and the city jail were both destroyed, and most of the prisoners escaped.
    • Sixty-seven percent of Charleston's brick structures were badly damaged or totally destroyed.
    • Every building in the city and in nearby Summerville was damaged.
    • Of fourteen thousand chimneys in Charleston, scarcely one hundred escaped damage. The estimated damage to Charleston's structures alone (not including contents) was $5 to $6 million in gold dollars—the equivalent of $100.5 to $121.2 million in 2006 dollars.
    • All electricity, telephone, and telegraph services were cut off.
    • The day after the earthquake, forty thousand of the sixty thousand residents of Charleston were living on the streets, and thousands of people from the South Carolina Lowcountry started their flight inland, seeking shelter and escape from the numerous aftershocks.

    To give some comparison to other catastrophic events, consider the following facts about the level of damage caused by the 1886 earthquake:

    • It was more destructive than the 200-cannon artillery bombardment by the British navy when they attacked and occupied Charleston in 1780.
    • It was more destructive than the castrophic fire in the Market Street area in 1835 and the 1838 Ansonboro fire, which burnt over 1,000 structures.
    • It was more destructive than the immense 1861 Chareston fire, which burned every building to the ground within a quarter-mile wide path all the way from the Cooper River to the Ashley River.
    • It was more destructive than the 531-day artillery bombardment by the Union navy and army in 1865 after which the the Union forces defeated the Confederates and took control of Charleston at the end of the Civil War.
    • It was more destructive than Hurricane Hugo, a devastating Category IV hurricane which struck the coast near Charleston in 1989, killing approximately twelve people in South Carolina, causing month-long power outages in many areas, and catastrophic damage throughout a thirty-mile-wide corridor through the state.
    • It was more destructive than the 1989 Loma Prieta, California, earthquake (magnitude 7.1), which killed 67 people, pancaked elevated sections of interstate highways, snapped the upper span of San Francisco's Oakland Bay Bridge, and devastated the San Francisco marina district.


    SOUTH CAROLINA EARTHQUAKES SINCE 1886

    Earthquakes are an ever-present danger in South Carolina. Over two thousand aftershocks and new earthquakes have been generated by the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone alone since 1886, and their frequency is increasing. In 1903, houses were shaken strongly in on the South Carolina-Georgia border near Savannah. A similar shock was felt in Charleston. Summerville suffered strong shocks in 1912 and 1914. On January 1, 1913, a strong earthquake estimated to have measured 5.1 on the Richter Scale struck Union County, South Carolina, in the northwest part of the state, and shockwaves spread into adjacent Georgia and North Carolina. Damage was minimal and no lives were lost, but the quake took place in a lightly populated area. Buildings were shaken and furniture overturned by a quake in Pickens County in 1924.

    An earthquake centered near Lake Murray, about thirty miles west of Columbia, struck in 1945. In 2005, a backup dam was completed to protect the area below the dam—including metropolitan Columbia—from possible damage from earthquake-generated dam failures. Moderately strong shocks occurred near Charleston in 1952, 1959, 1960, and 1967. In 1974, a brick wall was separated from a North Charleston house, and a five-hundred-ton machine tool jumped around on its bed at Ladson, near Summerville, during an earthquake shock. Approximately one hundred ninety earthquakes were detected between 1974 and 1993 by the South Carolina Seismic Network, an average of about ten per year. The strongest during this period (August 21, 1992) registered 4.1 on the Richter Scale. Seventy percent of these earthquakes originated in the Middleton Place-Sumerville Seismic Zone.

    The Seabrook Island earthquake of 2002, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey On November 11, 2002, a magnitude 4.4 earthquake originated in the Atlantic Ocean sixteen miles off the coast of Seabrook Island (see map to right). It was felt along the coast from at least Myrtle Beach to Beaufort, S.C. On February 18, 2005, a magnitude 2.9 earthquake originated several miles north of Columbia. The Charleston-Summerville area experiences approximately four to twelve earthquakes (mostly small) each year. Almost everyone who has lived in Summerville for more than one year has felt an earthquake there. One of the most recent quakes there happened on November 19, 2005. This magnitude 2.6 event was generated within the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone—the same zone that produced the catastrophic 1886 earthquake.


    1886 EARTHQUAKE DAMAGE PHOTOS BY COUNTY AND PLACE

    Please note that this section will be perpetually under construction.

    • Aiken County:
      • Aiken:
    • Bamberg County
      • Bamberg:
    • Barnwell County
      • Barnwell:
      • Blackville:
      • Williston:
    • Beaufort County
      • Beaufort: Firehouse Books and Espresso Bar, 706 Craven St.; The Arsenal, 3 Craven St.
    • Berkeley County
      • Middleburg Plantation:
    • Charleston County
      • Charleston - present city limits: 45 Anson St., 51 Meeting St. (Nathaniel Russell House), Roper Hospital, c. 1865
    • Colleton County
      • Walterboro:
    • Dorchester County
      • Summerville: St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 316 W. Carolina Ave.
    • Orangeburg County
      • Branchville:

    EFFECTS OF THE "NEXT BIG ONE"

    The Woodstock and Sawmill Branch/Ashley River Faults near Summerville, South Carolina. Courtesy Dr. Pradeep Talwani.

    Recent research by Dr. Pradeep Talwani and William T. Schaeffer determined that the massive 1886 earthquake was not a freak event. Instead, they found that it was at least the seventh magnitude 7.0+ (severe) earthquake generated by the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone, a twenty-five by fifteen-mile oval area that lies astride what Dr. Talwani named the Woodstock Fault (the red lines on the map to the right). Dr. Talwani determined that the "earthquake cycle" in this zone—that is, the average time between catastrophic earthquakes—is approximately 500-550 years. However, this does not give any prediction of when the next catastrophic earthquake will strike. That could happen tomorrow—or not for many years. South Carolina will certainly suffer the effects of a major earthquake again. The only questions are where it will strike, when will it happen, and how much damage it will cause.

    Earthquakes are produced in areas of the earth's crust known as fault zones or fault lines, most of which have been identified and have produced many earthquakes in the past. The Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone and the Woodstock Fault, which runs through it, have been active for thousands of years, and will likely be active for thousands more.

    Unlike hurricanes, which can be identified and tracked for at least a week before they make landfall, giving residents days to prepare and evacuate, earthquakes strike without warning. Since a major earthquake, such as the 1886 event, causes severe destruction hundreds of miles from its epicenter, everyone in the state should personally make plans and put together emergency supplies to last at least ten days without outside help. This is necessary because, during the first days and weeks after a major catastrophe, emergency service providers may not be able to provide even the most critical services, and each family will be largely on its own to cope for an undetermined abount of time. 2001 South Carolina Earthquake Vulnerability Study

    In 2001, The South Carolina Emergency Preparedness Division commissioned the Comprehensive Seismic Risk and Vulnerability Study for the State Of South Carolina. The report described the sophisticated computer modeling technology used to reproduce the effects of a magnitude 7.3 (1886-size), 6.3, and 5.0 earthquakes generated in the Charleston area, and also a magnitude 5.0 earthquake in Columbia. The entire report may be downloaded and viewed by clicking on the report cover, above. Please note that this is a very large file (33.6 MB, 609 pages in PDF format), and even with a cable modem, it may take two minutes to download. According to this simulation, a repeat of the 1886 magnitude 7.3 earthquake in the Charleston-Dorchester-Berkeley county area during daytime hours would probably produce the following results:

    • Vastly greater destruction of life and property. This is due to the enormous population growth since 1886 and the lack of earthquake-resistant building construction standards until the last few years.
    • At least 900 fatalities, compared to 124 known deaths in 1886.
    • At least 8,000 serious injuries, compared to 140 known serious injuries in 1886.
    • Approximately 45,000 total casualties (dead and injured), compared to approximately 500 in 1886.
    • More than 200,000 people displaced, with 60,000 requiring short-term (under 90 days) shelter, compared to 40,000 in 1886.
    • At least $200 billion in total economic losses from damage to buildings, interruption of businesses, and damage to transportation and utility systems, compared to approximately $100 million in 2006 dolars in 1886. About 77 percent of the losses will occur in the Charleston-Berkeley-Dorchester region.
    • More than 250 fires, compared to eight in 1886. The lack of operational firefighting equipment and a supply of water to fight the fires will be major concerns—just as in 1886.
    • Significant damage to more than 200 schools and over 100 fire stations. Because of insufficient seismic building code standards and the age of the majority of buildings, the majority of structures in the State, specifically schools and fire stations, are vulnerable to damage. The catastrophic failure or partial collapse of one or more school buildings during a school day could greatly increase casualties.
    • About 20 out of 108 hospitals will be incapacitated, mostly within the tri-county area, where most of the casualties will occur.
    • About 800 bridges will be rendered unusable, thereby preventing first responders who try to reach victims. A number of sea island communities, such as the Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island, and Hilton Head Island, whose only connection to the mainland is a bridge, may be cut off from all transportation except by boats or helicopters if the bridge fails.
    • Substantial damage to power production and distribution facilities, resulting in power outages lasting days to weeks. After Hurricane Hugo in 1989, for example, some neighborhoods had no electrical power for a month.
    • Significant disruption of water lines. Over 500 major water pipeline breaks are expected. Homes may not have water for periods ranging from weeks to months.
    • Damage to communication facilities, chiefly to large, poorly secured equipment. Disruption of telephone and television service may last for days to weeks. Emergency radio broadcasts will probably be the first to provide disaster-related information.


    PREPARING YOUR FAMILY

    In South Carolina, earthquakes can happen in any part of the state, and a repeat of a large earthquake, such as the 1886 Summerville-Charleston event, would cause damage throughout the entire state. Unlike hurricanes, the arrival date, time, and intensity of an earthquake can't be predicted. For that reason, each adult must prepare for the the worst and hope for the best. That means assuming that the next "big one" will happen very soon and acting accordingly. Fortunately, preparing for a major earthquake is similar to planning for a major hurricane. With a few small changes, you can prepare for both at the same time.

    Preparing your family to survive and recover from an earthquake starts with one fundamental assumption: that you will have to live on stored food, water, medicines, clothes, pet and and sanitary supplies for at least ten days, rather than three days, as had previously been recommended.

    Emergency vehicles may be damaged and unable to respond. Your dwelling may have been severely damaged and not be available as a residence for days, weeks, or months after the earthquake. Furthermore, public shelters—typically school buildings, few of which are engineered to withstand earthquakes, may have not have survived the earthquake any better than your dwelling. Emergency housing may not be available for weeks or months. Emergency vehicles, specifically EMS vehicles, ambulances, and fire trucks, may have been damaged or trapped in their stations, or the roads to your residence may be impassable. This is especially likely on the low-lying sea islands, some of which have only a single bridge connecting them to the mainland. Evacuation and/or relocation after the earthquake (as it was in 1886) may be necessary if damage to your dwelling or community is extensive.

    1. Prepare a Family Disaster Plan.

    • Designate a specific outdoor meeting place where all family members will assemble immediately after the quake stops. The designated place should be out-of-doors and away from any buildings, utility poles, or highway overpasses which could fall on people when aftershocks take place.
    • Designate a specific out-of-state friend or family member to contact so that all family members have a single person who can provide information about all members of the family.
    • Make up a credit-card-size emergency contact list for each family member's wallet. Have the lists laminated in plastic so that they wil last. The emergency contact card should list each family member's name; Social Security number; home, work, or school addresses and phone numbers; cell phone numbers and email addresses; and the out-of-state contact person's name, addresses, and all possible telephone and fax numbers and email addresses. Send a copy to the out-of-state contact person.

    2. Prepare an in-home Disaster Supply Center.

    Your in-home disaster supply center should be a designated place in an earthquake-resistant part of your home. It should be stocked with a ten-day supply of non-perishable supplies sufficient to provide for all members of the family, including your pets. These supplies should include:

    • Food, preferably food that does not require much water or cooking.
    • A manual can opener.
    • Water. One gallon per day per person.
    • Prescription medicines. Ask your physician or pharmacist if these can be safely stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator, which will lengthen their storage life.
    • Alternative cooking sources, such as a charcoal or propane gas grill or cookstove. Use both types outdoors only.
    • Propane tanks to supply the grill and gas lanterns.
    • Flashlights, stored empty, with batteries in separate waterproof containers or plastic bags. Batteries stored for a long time can leak, and leaking batteries can destroy flashlights and radios. Battery- or propane gas-powered lanterns will illuminate larger areas. Do NOT purchase or use use candles because they are a fire hazard and may cause explosions from leaking home gas lines.
    • Sanitation supplies (plastic bags for disposing of bodily wastes and garbage), toilet paper, and pre-moistened sanitary wipes for personal cleansing. If funds permit, a portable folding toilet would be useful.
    • Pet food, litter, leash, traveling case, and muzzle. Without the last two, your pet may be denied access to even pet-friendly shelters. Have ID tags and collars made for all pets so they can be returned to you if they are lost.
    • A fire extinguisher.
    • Heavy work gloves, heavy shoes, socks, and a set of work clothes for cleanup work for each adult.
    • Extra blankets, sealed in watertight bags or containers.

    3. Prepare In-car Disaster Supply Kits

    If an earthquake severely damages your home, the emergency supplies stored in your in-home disaster supply center may have been damaged or destroyed. If you are at work or school, you may not be able to get home quickly. For this reason, each family vehicle should contain a bag (such as a gym bag) in the trunk of each car containing at least a three-day supply of survival essentials. These should include:

    • A vital information file folder, containing a copy of your emergency contact list, your driver's license, Social Security card, insurance company contact information, a household property inventory, [and further information coming soon].
    • A variety of ready-to-eat, non-perishable food (canned or dried), such as nutritionally complete energy bars or pre-packaged, ready-to-eat emergency meals.
    • Drinking water, preferably in 16-ounce sealed bottles.
    • A first aid kit meeting the specifications of the American Red Cross.
    • A flashlight, and small transistor radio.
    • Two sets of batteries for the flashlight and radio, stored in a separate plastic zipped baggie.
    • Emergency cash. Credit and debit cards will be useless if electricity is not available.
    • A complete set of work clothes, shoes, and work gloves.


    PREPARING YOUR HOME


    PREPARING YOUR SCHOOL

    Many states now require specific disaster preparedness activities in their school systems. In California, for example, schools are required to have a disaster plan, to hold periodic drop, cover and hold drills, and to hold educational and training programs for students and staff. In Kentucky, a 1992 bill mandated disaster plans, drills and training in the schools. Disaster drills in schools are required in Oregon, Montana and Missouri, and Idaho and Arkansas mandate earthquake resistant design for all public buildings, including schools.

    In South Carolina, there is no state requirement for schools to carry out earthquake safety surveys or practice earthquake safety drills. In addition, the vast majority of the state's schools are not built to withstand earthquakes. In a 2006 letter to the Charleston, S.C. Post and Courier, Robert B. Russell, Jr., a South Carolina resident and retired founder and CEO of the Ruscon Corporation, a large national construction firm, had the following warning to share with South Carolina's public school officials:

    "Our schools today have been built with little or no earthquake design, and the trend continues. I know this, having constructed many of them. With all due respect for architects and politicians, the effort is still to limit the school construction budget and get the most for the dollar. But they are not professional engineers. Few if any have obtained a bachelor's, a master's, or doctorate in engineering as have I. When the next big earthquake strikes our state, God help us that it does not occur when schools are in session with the tens of thousands of students at the mercy of collapsing structures." In an October 31, 2006 telephone conversation with Richard N. Côté, he was even more candid. "It will make the 9/11 terrorist act look like a small accident in comparison," he said. "Our children deserve better than to be exposed to this situation."

    All schools in South Carolina are subject to earthquake damage. According to FEMA, fluorescent lights not properly secured fell on students during a 1983 Coalinga, California earthquake. Libraries are particularly hazardous areas, since unsecured bookshelves are extremely dangerous for both students and staff. Science classrooms and custodian closets are another intrinsically dangerous area, where hazardous chemicals on open shelves can break or fall during an earthquake, causing toxic fumes and compounding a disaster. During the 1983 Coalinga earthquake, chemicals burned through two floors of a high school.

    In order to protect South Carolina's school children, the following steps need be taken:


    WHAT TO DO DURING AN EARTHQUAKE

    • IF INDOORS, STAY THERE. Do not run downstairs or outside while the building is shaking, as there is danger that you may be knocked down and injured. Running out an exterior door when an earthquake is underway makes you vulnerable to falling objects, such as overhead building parts and falling glass. After the shaking stops, and if an open space is close to the building, run to the open space.
    • IF OUTDOORS, STAY THERE. Immediately move away from trees, signs, buildings, or electrical poles or wires which could fall on you. If on a sidewalk near multiple buildings, duck into a doorway to protect yourself from falling bricks, plaster, glass, and other debris.
    • If at home. If you are in bed or on a couch when the shaking starts, roll off onto the floor and stay next to the bed or couch. If the ceiling falls, a survivable void will likely remain close to the bed. If you are elsewhere in the house, move away from windows, because they may shatter. Move away from exposed brick or stone fireplaces, because they or their chimneys may fall. Move to a doorway or next to a central wall. If near a study table, duck down and take shelter under it. Assume the fetal position, protect your head with your hands and arms, and hold onto the table.
    • If in a multi-story / high-rise office office, store, or hospital. Do not use stairways or the elevators. Move to a doorway or next to a central wall. If near a study table, duck down and take shelter under it. Assume the fetal position, protect your head with your hands and arms, and hold onto the table.
    • If in a multi-level parking facility. Lie face down next to, but not in, a car or truck. The vehicle, even if flattened, will likely create a survivable void next to it.
    • In a large store. Move away from display shelves containing objects that could fall. Do not use stairways or the elevators, and do not rush for the exit. Move to a doorway or next to a central wall. If near a study table, duck down and take shelter under it. Assume the fetal position, protect your head with your hands and arms, and hold onto the table.
    • If in a stadium or theatre. Drop to the floor. Get below the level of the back of the seat, assume the fetal position, and cover your head with your hands and arms.
    • If in a school. This information will be posted soon.
    • If driving. Drive as far out of traffic is possible. Pull over to side of the road and come to a careful stop. Do not park under an overpass or near trees, power lines, light posts, or signs, as they could fall on you. Stay inside your vehicle until the shaking stops. Turn on the radio to receive emergency broadcasts. If you resume travel, be alert to fallen rocks, structures, power lines. Do not drive on or under overpasses, which may collapse. Remember that aftershocks, either larger or smaller than the first shock, are likely, and many may follow.


    WHAT TO DO AFTER AN EARTHQUAKE

    This information is coming soon.


    ABOUT THIS SITE

    Richard N. Côté, author of City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886. During the three-and-a-half years it took to research his book, City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886, author-historian Richard N. Côté learned that no public body or private institution was actively conducting outreach programs to inform South Carolina's general public about earthquake hazards in South Carolina. He prepared this web site for the privately-funded South Carolina Earthquake Awareness Project, and travels throughout South Carolina on request to provide earthquake awareness and hazard reduction talks and information. To contact him about speaking to your public or private group, office, or organization, or to share suggestions about this website, email dickcote@earthlink.net or call (843) 881-6080.

    The author would like to thank the College of Charleston Departent of Geology and and Environmental Geosciences, the University of South Carolina Geology Department, The Charleston Southern University Earthquake Center, the South Carolina Geological Survey, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, the U. S. Geological Survey, The Federal Emergency Management Agency, The Southern California Earthquake Center, The Nevada Seismological Laboratory, The Alaska Sea Grant College Program, the American Rescue Team International, the American National Red Cross, and the Next of Kin Educational Project for the information they created which is presented here. However, the display of that information here does not constitute any endorsement of this website by the above-named agencies or organizations.

    PLEASE NOTE:

    The information presented here comes from the experts and sources noted above, but the author of this website cannot and does not guarantee that the information contained here is complete, safe, or accurate, nor should not be considered a substitute for good judgement and common sense. Persons wishing to prepare themselves, their families, their home, school, or workplace against earthquake hazards should rely upon experts and information sources of their own choosing. The author and any experts named here disclaim any liability from any injury which may result from the use, proper or improper, of the information contained here.


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