When the ground started shaking Friday night, Sandy Quarles thought it was the old oak tree tumbling over in the front yard of her Edgefield home.
She was one of thousands of residents – from Thomson to Aiken to Fort Gordon to downtown Augusta – asking the same question: Did we just have an earthquake?
Yes, we did.
About 10:23 p.m., an earthquake centered 12 kilometers west-northwest of Edgefield, with a preliminary magnitude of 4.1, shook an Augusta area still recuperating from a major ice storm, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Web site. Many people, still hunkered down without power, went outside to see what new calamity had befallen them.
“We were asleep before we heard what sounded like a loud explosion,” Quarles said. “All the windows started to shake and we thought that old oak tree had fallen over. I’ve never felt anything like that before.”
The earthquake was felt as far away as Athens, Ga.; Atlanta; Spartanburg, S.C.; Columbia; and Charlotte, N.C.
There were no reports of damage. A spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency said such a quake would wake people, shake dishes, maybe knock a painting off a wall, but wouldn’t cause structural damage.
Pam Tucker, Columbia County’s emergency management director, said she had contacted control room operators at Thurmond Dam and Hartwell Dam and there were no initial reports of damage. Personnel had been called in to do more detailed inspections.
Mie Lucas, the disaster preparedness coordinator for Richmond County, said no damage had been reported.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the largest quake felt in the area was a recorded 4.5 that took place March 5, 1916. Located 30 miles southwest of Atlanta, it was felt across an area of 5,000 miles.
The largest recent quake in the lake area occurred in Lincoln County on Aug. 2, 1974, and registered 4.2, according to Augusta Chronicle archives.
Staff writer Doug Stutsman contributed to this story.