Originally created 03/19/03

Minor earthquake causes late-night jitters



A small earthquake rumbled more than 40 miles northwest of Augusta early Tuesday morning.

It didn't cause a lot of damage in this area, but it woke some residents, causing concern.

The magnitude 3.5 earthquake hit at 1:04 a.m., with an epicenter 7 miles south of Rayle in Wilkes County, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Jeannie Pentecost, a McDuffie County emergency dispatcher, said crews working the phones overnight were kept busy.

"We had several calls on it, people wondering what was going on here," she said.

One of those calls was from a man staying at the Holiday Inn in Thomson.

"He said it woke him up and he thought the building was going to collapse," Ms. Pentecost said.

Alison Bowles, who lives off Pine Needle Road in west Augusta, said she and her husband were roused out of their sleep by a loud rumbling noise that came suddenly.

"I thought maybe a tree has fallen, but I didn't hear any cracking," Ms. Bowles said.

A magnitude 3.5 earthquake is one of the smallest quakes that people can feel, usually causing no damage.

Seismographs at Savannah River Site detected the earthquake, said Bruce Cadotte, a spokesman for Westinghouse Savannah River Co.

"Because of the stuff we do, and the processes we have, if there were an earthquake of tremendous size, we'd need to be able to assess the impact here quickly," Mr. Cadotte said. No damage was reported at SRS.

Augusta's worst earthquake happened August 31, 1886, when a powerful earthquake struck Charleston, S.C..

According to the USGS, the shaking in Augusta that day was the most severe in Georgia, with an estimated 1,000 buildings damaged.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.