“Drop, Cover, & Hold on!”

A rise in seismic activity sends shock waves


Photo courtesy U of SC library

South Carolina’s most severe earthquake took place in 1886 in Charleston, SC.

Dev Patel, Sports Co-Editor

Due to the issues arising from climate change, the state of South Carolina has endured numerous earthquakes since the beginning of 2021. Climate change has increased the occurrence of extreme weather events and unpredictable weather patterns. According to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, “there have been 39 earthquakes in South Carolina since Jan. 18, 2021.” This number is nearly double the South Carolina average of 10-20 earthquakes per year.  

The recent series of earthquakes in the midlands region of South Carolina has led to the discovery of ancient plate boundaries. These plates are a part of the South Carolina seismic zone, where the existing faults are reactivated by environmental stress factors due to climate change. These findings have confirmed that South Carolina is the state with the highest possibility of an earthquake on the east coast. The higher possibility of earthquakes in South Carolina is because of the strength in the soil becoming weak from additional external pressure and stress, called liquefaction. 

Dorothy Salley (10) is an avid outdoor hiker and camper and participates in Envirothon after school. She also enjoys traveling the world with her family and experienced a severe earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

I was there for seven months, and they had a huge earthquake seven years prior. The community was still rebuilding when I was living there. I experienced an earthquake in New Zealand as well, since the region is prone to them. The earthquake was a very scary experience, and I am thankful that there aren’t as many earthquakes here in South Carolina.  Hopefully it will stay that way,” Salley said.  

Math teacher Tracy Petty has experienced multiple minor earthquakes, however one day she was surprised by a convulsion at work that left her in shock. 

“The strongest earthquake that I have experienced was while I was teaching at Union High School.  It happened during my planning period, so there were no students in my room. My door was closed, but it suddenly made a noise and moved back and forth.  I was on the second floor, and I could feel the floor and the building shaking.  This was shortly after 9/11, so that made the experience even more frightening,” Petty said. 

Several questions have surfaced as scientists continue to study the confusing situation of the surge in earthquakes. One of these questions, concerns whether a large earthquake is in the near future for South Carolina residents since they are frequently occurring currently. In response, experts do consider a large earthquake possible in South Carolina although highly unlikely because the last detrimental earthquake took place in 1886 in Charleston, South Carolina. It was the most powerful earthquake to ever hit the east coast of the United States with a magnitude of seven. 

Rob Wilder is the AP Environmental Science teacher and sponsors the Envirothon team. He is familiar with various weather patterns and how their conditions affect the environment. 

Earthquakes often occur in a series. I don’t believe these will continue to occur over the long term and pose very little threat to the Upstate. South Carolina does not currently sit on a major fault line, but it did several hundred million years ago, and there was surely more significant earthquake activity then,” Wilder said.