Last month, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti. In South Carolina, seismologist Erin Beutel with the College of Charleston says such earthquakes are closer to home than one may think. “The magnitude earthquakes that occurred in Haiti, magnitude 7, which is approximately the size that the Charleston/Summerville earthquake was in 1886. So, the size of earthquake was equivalent to what we have had before, and the mechanism being relatively shallow, and the straight clip is also similar to what we had in 1886,” says Beutel.
Beutel says this doesn’t mean South Carolinians should panic, but just be prepared.
“The likelihood is probably slight that in our lifetime that we would experience an earthquake of this magnitude. The chances that those of us in the Lowcountry would experience maybe a 5.0, 4.0, something that’s gonna cause some damage, is actually pretty good. So, we should be aware that there is an issue, know what to do, and be prepared as we are for hurricanes, ice storms, all of the things that happen to us in the Lowcountry,” says Beutel.
Beutel runs down a few things residents can do to always be prepared.
“Having an emergency kit prepared throughout the year is a good idea no matter what. You also need to know that during an earthquake, what do you do? You go under a table, go under a desk. Standing inside a doorway is fine as long as there is no door in it. Don’t run outside because most of the deaths in the kind of building structures occur because the placard falls off and hits people as they run off,” says Beutel.
Actually, Beutel says the possibility of an earthquake hitting South Carolina of this size dates about every 500 years, but sometimes they seem to go off course.
“The problem is that mother nature doesn’t always comply with previous recurrence intervals, but that’s our best guess. We can’t completely rule out that one would happen sooner than that,” says Beutel.
About 70 percent of earthquakes that have hit the state have occurred in and around Charleston County.
(Beutel’s interview, mp3, 2:26)