3.2 magnitude earthquake shakes Augusta

It was at first mistaken for an explosion or a truck colliding with a building, but there was no apparent major damage from a minor earthquake that rattled Augusta on Tuesday morning,


The magnitude 3.2 earthquake hit at 11:14 a.m. and was originally reported by the U.S. Geological Survey as a 3.0 but upgraded soon after. According to the USGS, it struck six kilometers southwest of Augusta and had a depth of 12.9 kilometers. The USGS showed it began in the vicinity of Killebrew and Woodward avenues in south Augusta.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office received multiple calls but the Augusta-Richmond County Emergency Management Agency said it had received no reports of any damage, according to spokeswoman Dee Griffin.

“No one has reported anything,” she said.

The USGS web site showed the quake was felt as far away as Washington, Ga., and across the Savannah River in Aiken and Columbia .

“I thought it was a large explosion. I felt like I was moving backwards,” said Ennis Koonce, who lives on Woodward Avenue near the quake’s epicenter. “My lady friend said it was an earthquake, but I said ‘No, I’ve been in an earthquake before, this sounds like an explosion.’ It was real loud. I didn’t even see any birds around. I figured the birds would give me a sign that something’s going on.”

Cathy Nelson, who also lives on Woodward Avenue, said the tremblor felt like it lasted for a long time. She said she was in a back room doing some cleaning when everything started shaking.

“I just came flying out the door, I thought maybe somebody had hit something or something had blown up,” Nelson said. “I was walking all around the house looking crazy.”

“[I was thinking] Who ran into something? Who hit something? What exploded?

“I ran out, I was looking around, I went to the back and thought ‘alright I don’t see anything’.”

A resident on Killebrew Avenue said the earthquake was something she’d never experienced and doesn’t want to again, calling it “scary.”

“My daughter was in the bathroom, I thought she fell in the tub or something. I went to see if she was alright. We ran to see if a tree fell, I thought the floor had fallen in or something,” said Earnestine Brown. “I was in my bedroom, and everything just went ‘boom’ and I was scared to move for a minute. We all started pacing through the house, and we thought maybe a tree had fallen or something. Everything was alright with the floors and stuff.”

“We’re all right though. It shook me up for a minute.. “No damage or anything. Except for me. I still have to get myself together. It’s the first I ever experienced, and I’m hoping it doesn’t come again. I thank God that we’re alright, that everything’s alright.”

Augusta was trending soon after on Twitter with many local users bewildered or just reporting the event had happened while users in more earthquake-prone areas mocked their startled reactions. Twitter user Nova Marie compared the Augusta earthquake to rain in Los Angeles - “infrequent, short, harmless but so unheard of, the locals lose their minds.”

Griffin said in a news release the shaking triggered alarms on homes and businesses. She said a scientist with the USGS cautioned about the possibility of aftershocks.

“Scientists cautioned that this may have been a “foreshock” which could be the prelude to an earthquake,” she stated in the press release, adding that there is no indication there will be additional tremblors in the Augusta area.

Georgia Power spokesman Craig Bell said in a statement the earthquake had no impact on the nuclear power plant in Burke County.

While the earthquake would be considered a minor quake by most standards, it was reported as a 5 in intensity by many in Augusta and Hephzibah, which is described on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale as a “felt by nearly everyone; many awakened. Some dishes, windows broken. Unstable objects overturned. Pendulum clocks may stop.” Almost 500 people had reported they felt the quake to the USGS web site within a half hour of it hitting and more than 1,900 had responded by the afternoon.

It brought to mind for many the Valentine’s Day 2014 earthquake centered 12 kilometers west-northwest of Edgefield, with a preliminary magnitude of 4.1, that shook an Augusta area still in the midst of a major ice storm.

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.

According to the USGS

Since at least 1776, people living inland in North and South Carolina, and in adjacent parts of Georgia and Tennessee, have felt small earthquakes and suffered damage from infrequent larger ones. The largest earthquake in the area (magnitude 5.1) occurred in 1916. Moderately damaging earthquakes strike the inland Carolinas every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt about once each year or two.

Earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S., although less frequent than in the western U.S., are typically felt over a much broader region. East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast. A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt at many places as far as 100 km (60 mi) from where it occurred, and it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake usually can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from where it occurred, and sometimes causes damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi).

SOURCE: Augusta Chronicle archives (USGS.gov)



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