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York County not used to (and not immune to) earthquakes

While York County has not seen torrential damage from an earthquake in more than a century, experts say last week’s earthquake in Edgefield County should be a wake-up call for those not used to the seismic activity.

Between Friday night and Sunday afternoon, two earthquakes ringing in at a magnitude 4.1 and 3.2, respectively, rocked the southwestern coast of South Carolina. Reports from social media indicate the rumbling made its way to Charleston, Charlotte and Atlanta.

But here in York County, while the risk of an earthquake remains relatively low, York County Office of Emergency Management Director Cotton Howell says York County remains between two major fault lines — in Charleston and Kentucky — and some of those run right through neighboring Chester County.

“I don’t see ourselves as risks,” Howell said, “But at the same time, we’re not as prepared for those things.”

Due to the nature of their facilities, seismic monitors are present at the Catawba Nuclear Station and at hydroelectric power plants across the state.

“Those monitor anything above background levels,” Howell said. The sensors are monitored around the clock.

York County has not seen major damage from an earthquake since 1886 — the same year Winthrop University was founded in Columbia. That year, Howell said, portions of Rock Hill sustained severe damage.

Howell said efforts have been made to involve York County in the Great Southeast Shakeout, a regionally-driven effort to increase the warning from earthquake dangers.”

“It’s a little hard to get people thinking about something that hasn’t occurred within the last ten generations.”

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