Series of earthquakes in the Midlands might be longest in SC history, geologists say

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The swarm of earthquakes that has been happening in the Midlands in recent months could be the longest such run in South Carolina history, experts say.

The steady occurrence of temblors was thrown back to the forefront in the Midlands on Wednesday, when a magnitude 3.5 earthquake was detected at about 3 p.m. three miles east of Elgin, and was felt across the area. Then, at about 7 p.m. Wednesday, a 3.6 magnitude earthquake happened about four miles east of Elgin. They were the largest quakes felt in the Palmetto State in eight years.

Since Dec. 27, 2021, 44 low-magnitude earthquakes have happened in the Elgin area. Experts say that’s unprecedented in modern times.

“These earthquakes are now the longest running series of earthquakes in recent history,” South Carolina state geologist Scott Howard said in a Thursday release from the state Emergency Management Division. “Unlike earthquake swarms occurring elsewhere in the country, these have been low in magnitude and haven’t posed a hazard to people, fortunately.”

The emergency management release noted that South Carolina has had thousands of earthquakes in its history. What makes the current events unique is the length of time over which they have been occurring.

The release noted that seismologists “believe these low-magnitude quakes are not indicators of larger earthquakes to come.”

Howard and Dr. Steven C. Jaume’, of the College of Charleston’s Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences department, each noted the swarm of earthquakes is not related to mining activity or any other human cause.

“The first earthquake on December 27 appears to be the one that started this swarm in Kershaw County,” Jaume’ said in the release. “When an earthquake occurs in a region where there hasn’t been much activity over a long period of time, we can expect similar earthquakes to occur in that general area for the foreseeable future.”