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Earthquakes in Columbia, SC have us shook

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SC’s fault line system | Photo via SCDNR

What’s at fault for the recent groundbreaking news?

Around 1:30 a.m. yesterday morning, a 3.3 magnitude earthquake shook the ground in Elgin, SC, waking up citizens around the Midlands. The earthquake was followed by two back-to-back earthquakes an hour later registering 1.6 + 1.8 magnitudes.

Normally, we would shrug off small, random earthquakes as a coincidence. But, if experiencing frequent earthquakes within the last few months has you a little shaken up, we’re right there with you.

So, we did a little digging to see if we can take that worry off of your plate.

The three earthquakes yesterday morning pushed SC’s 2022 earthquake tally up to 23, with 19 happening within 35 miles of Columbia. Historically, 70% of earthquakes in SC happen along the Coastal Plain, but because our state isn’t considered a hot spot for earthquake activity, the recent mid-state quakes are a bit of a mystery.

Earthquakes within our state don’t usually happen at a plate boundary, but within the plate itself, causing intraplate quakes. These kinds of earthquakes can be caused by the reactivation of old rifts or plate boundaries, but how or why they become active again is not well understood.


Earthquake intensities for SC counties based on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale | Photo via SCDNR

The good news: Though the recent occurrences are still puzzling, a series of small earthquakes do not necessarily correlate with a larger earthquake occurring.

The bad news: Because there isn’t a fool-proof way to accurately predict when an earthquake may occur, we must be prepared at all times for when they do.

So, how do you prepare? SCDNR offers safety tips before, during, and after an earthquake occurs. Being prepared for an emergency is key, so stay up-to-date with all the earthquake happenings by signing up for the United States Geological Survey’s Earthquake Notification Service.