South Carolina Coastal Residents Feel Effects of Mini-Earthquake

December 18, 2008

A weak earthquake shook parts of the South Carolina coast Tuesday, tipping over people’s Christmas trees, knocking pictures off walls and causing minor injuries.

The temblor with a preliminary magnitude of 3.6 was recorded at 7:42 a.m. northwest of Charleston, according to the Earthquake Hazards Program of the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. The epicenter was about 4 miles from Summerville near a fault blamed for the deadly 1886 Charleston quake which killed more than 100.

Summerville police Sgt. Cassandra Williams said the department had received no reports of damage but she felt the rattling herself for a few seconds.

“I was sitting in the parking lot getting my cup of coffee … and I felt my trunk shaking. I thought who in the world is shaking my trunk like that?”

Dennis Clark, director of the Dorchester County Emergency Management Department, said his office received scattered reports of pictures falling from walls and Christmas trees tipping over.

He said emergency workers responded to two reports of minor injuries. A pregnant woman fell during the shaking and worried about her unborn child. Also, a child fell out of a stool or high chair and hit his head.

Initially, the earthquake’s center was reported southeast of Goose Creek but was later adjusted farther northwest. It was about 3 miles below the earth’s surface, said Carrieanne Bedwell, a seismologist with hazards program.

The 1886 quake was a magnitude 7.3 destroying about $5 million worth of property, worth $103 million when adjusted for inflation.

Bedwell said the last temblor in the Charleston area that could be felt was a 2.6 magnitude in November of 2005.

Steve Jaume, an associate professor of geology at the College of Charleston, said between 20 and 30 earthquakes usually affect the area each year but most are so weak they can’t be felt.

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