History Moment By William “Doc” Halliday

1886 Charleston Earthquake

earthquakeWhen I think of earthquakes, I naturally think of California because of the San Andreas Fault. Foremost in my mind is the San Francisco earthquake in April of 1906 rated 7.8 Magnitude. I also think of the Alaskan earthquake that occurred in March of 1964 and is rated at 9.2 Magnitude. That is the largest earthquake recorded in the United States. Third on my list is the series of earthquakes that hit New Madrid, Missouri in 1811 and 1812. Tectonic earthquakes can occur anywhere there is adequate stored elastic strain energy to drive fracture transmission along a fault plane. I have even experienced earthquakes in New England of all places.

In most regions east of the Rocky Mountains, the best guide to earthquake hazards is the earthquakes themselves. An earthquake on the east coast can be felt over an area that is ten times greater than a similar Magnitude earthquake on the west coast. There had been virtually no historical earthquake activity in the Charleston area prior to 1886. This is unusual for a seismic area.

One hundred and thirty one years ago, on August 31, 1886, a 7.3 Magnitude earthquake occurred…

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