Earthquakes are so rare in Georgia, many Newton County residents didn’t realize they felt the effects of one Friday evening, instead attributing the brief shaking of their homes to strong winds, tornadoes, trains, a sonic boom and even a car crashing into a garage.
A 4.1 magninute earthquake outside of Edgefield, S.C. – near the Georgia border, about 30 miles north of Augusta – shook homes across parts of three states around 10:23 p.m. Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, but no damage or injuries have been reported.
Jody Nolan, deputy director of the Newton County Emergency Management Agency, said Saturday he hadn’t heard of any damage.
Residents, however, had plenty to report about their experience through social media, which is how most news organizations first learned of the storm.
"Ground trembled and shook the house here in Newborn. I thought it was a tornado., because it rained really hard and got real windy and noisy right before the ground and house started shaking, and in less than 10 seconds the rain and wind stopped and so did the shaking," Nancy Cronic said on The News’ Facebook site, saying the experience was similar to the tornado the town experienced a few years ago.
Amy Kimble Boyd said she felt it while in her daughter’s room above the garage, but her husband on the other side of the house didn’t feel a thing.
"I thought someone had hit our garage or that I was losing my mind!," Boyd said on Facebook.
Porterdale resident Vicky McEachern Atkinson thought it might have been a sonic boom – the noise made by the shock wave of an aircraft traveling faster than the speed of sound.
"Doors popped and roof shook. Thought it must be a sonic boom. Didn’t know it was an earthquake till this morning," she said.
Kaylin Calhoun said the quake "rattled the sconces on the wall of my bedroom; it was kinda freaky."
However, Ragen Maloy Cantrell was one of the few who said she identified the sensation of an earthquake immediately.
"Knew right away, when I heard that telltale rumbling, what was happening – heard my dishes vibrating, but only felt a slight shimmy - lasted about 10 seconds," Cantrell said on Facebook. "Lived in Japan for two years, so we’ve been through some strong earthquakes - strongest one was 6.5 - now, that will effectively relocate some furniture!"
Smaller earthquakes are are felt once every year or two, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, with moderately-damaging earthquakes hitting the region of the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee once every few decades. The largest earthquake in that region was a magnitude 5.1 earthquake in 1916.
USGS geophysicist Dale Grant said this was a large quake for the area. Residents reported feeling the quake as far west as Atlanta and as far north as Hickory, N.C., each about 150 miles from Edgefield.
William Doar, with the South Carolina Geological Survey, told Columbia, S.C.-based WLTX that the size of the earthquake was fairly rare, noting the state usually only gets 1 and 2-magnitude quakes.
"Every decade or so we get one of these bigger ones. ... The way the crust is, the actual rock, the land that we have on the East Coast, doesn’t leave us susceptible to lots of big earthquakes," Doar told the TV station.
The largest earthquake ever recorded on the East Coast was a 7.3-magnitude quake near Charleston in August 1886 that killed at least 60 people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.