S.C. Earthquake Risk Among Nation's Highest on New Map - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

S.C. Earthquake Risk Among Nation's Highest on New Map

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COLUMBIA, S.C. - A new map from the US Geological Survey showing the risk of earthquakes across the country puts South Carolina among the highest-risk areas. A large area around Charleston is one of the highest hazard areas in the nation, and most of the state is at elevated risk.

Derrec Becker, spokesman for the SC Emergency Management Division, says, "The updated maps from USGS really confirm what we in Emergency Management have believed all along, that an earthquake really is the single greatest disaster that South Carolina would ever face.”

The worst East Coast earthquake in US history was in Charleston in 1886, with a magnitude of 7.3. SCEMD has done a study of what a similar quake would do today.

“We estimate over 900 fatalities right then and there,” Becker says. “At least 45,000 people would be injured. 70,000 homes would be totally destroyed. The economic impact would be $20 billion and above and would last for over two decades."

But people who live in Charleston aren’t the only ones who need to be aware of the state’s elevated earthquake risk. Dr. Jerry Mitchell, in the University of South Carolina’s Geography department, says, "We can't just focus on the Lowcountry. The second-strongest earthquake in kind of our recent history, 1913, was Union County. So the whole state has a history of most of the activity."

And even if Charleston is at higher risk, he says because of the nature of the rock and soil in this part of the country, an earthquake there would be felt in surrounding states. The 1886 quake was felt as far away as Chicago and New York.

Dr. Mitchell says the new USGS maps should lead to changes in building codes. "Another place that has a lot of earthquakes is Japan, and they've tremendously trimmed the loss of life by having stronger building codes," he says.

According to the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, of which the SC Building Codes Council is a part, building codes are written using the data supplied by the USGS. With the new information, the International Building Code Council will make any necessary adjustments in future building codes. The state council then recommends those codes to state lawmakers for adoption.

You can see the USGS report and map at http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/new-insight-on-the-nations-earthquake-hazards/?from=image

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