Small Earthquake Rattles South Carolina

March 30, 2009

Several people reported feeling shaky ground last Friday near Barnwell as a small earthquake jarred part of southwestern South Carolina.

College of Charleston scientists said their seismometers detected the quake around 12:15 p.m. Friday, but the exact epicenter and strength haven’t been determined. The U.S. Geological Survey also detected the quake but hadn’t released official information Friday evening.

“We do have a small earthquake there, but we’re still trying to track it down. It’s very small,” said geophysicist Paul Caruso, guessing it was about a magnitude 2 quake.

Barnwell County Emergency Management Director Roger Riley said no injuries or damage have been reported.

Riley said about eight calls came in from people along the edge of the Savannah River Site nuclear complex between Snelling and Williston. Complex spokesman Will Callicott said he hadn’t heard of any problems at the former nuclear weapons plant.

Scientists said earthquakes are rare in the Barnwell area. Quakes are more common near Charleston, where an earthquake killed more than 100 people in 1886.

College of Charleston researchers said the state doesn’t have a lot of equipment, so it could take time to determine the precise epicenter and strength of Friday’s quake.

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