New data point to an unsettling reality: South Carolina has the sixth-largest number of people exposed to potentially damaging earthquakes.
The estimates come from updated U.S. National Seismic Hazard Maps, which predicts where future earthquakes will occur and how often and how strong they will be.
California has the largest population at risk, followed by Washington, Utah, Tennessee, Oregon and South Carolina. That’s according to findings the U.S. Geological Survey released last Monday.
The new assessment is nearly double the previous 2006 estimate of 75 million Americans in 39 states, said William Leith, the USGS senior science advisor for earthquake and geologic hazards.
At least two factors are responsible.
“Populations have grown significantly in areas prone to earthquakes, and USGS scientists have improved data and methodologies that allow for more accurate estimates of earthquake hazards and ground shaking,” said Leith, who coauthored the study.
Unlike South Carolina, Georgia is not among the top 10 states.
Of nearly 10 million Georgians in 2013, USGS estimates less than half —only 4.5 million — face exposure to “potentially damaging ground shaking.” By comparison, South Carolina’s population was 4.7 million. The number of people experts say are exposed to potentially damaging ground shaking: All of them.
In the category of “very strong ground shaking,” South Carolina has nearly 800,000 people exposed, while Georgia has none.
Since January of last year, there have been almost a dozen earthquakes in South Carolina. On Wednesday, the state Emergency Management Division tweeted the occurrence of one that took place the night before.
They’re not all near the coast. At least three took place in the Edgefield County region last year — two in February and one in September. Neighboring Aiken County had an earthquake that month, too.
South Carolina’s high earthquakes ranking may surprise some people. But architects in the state have known it all along.