Alaska earthquake, tsunami threat raises questions for the Lowcountry

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Nerves might still be a little rattled in Alaska, after A 7.9 magntiude earthquake hit off the coast early Tuesday morning. A tsunami warning was issued, but a big wave never formed.

Earthquakes may also be a worry in the back of many people's minds in the Lowcountry.

A fault runs along the coast through Summerville, where tiny earthquakes frequently are recorded. A mini quake was recorded in Flowertown back in August in fact.

In 1886, a major earthquake struck the Charleston area, destroying homes and buildings and leaving at least 60 people dead. College of Charleston professor Dr. Steven Jaume says that quake was centered around Summerville.

Jaume says it's possible a tsunami could hit the Charleston coast if another large quake were to happen in or near South Carolina, but that would depend on the earthquake's location.

"We have recorded small tsunamis on the Charleston Harbor tide gauge (from) big earthquakes in the carribean, but the tsunamis havent been large enough to do damage," Jaume said. "But if you get a large enough earthquake in the Atlantic Ocean, or a big under water landslide in the Atlantic Ocean, we have the potential for a tsunami here."

If there's a tsunami warning, Jaume says it's important to get to high ground. As for an earthquake, Jaume says it's important to not go outside.

"One of the things we know from historical research on the Charleston earthquake in 1886 was most of the people who died or were seriously injured, were injured as they were running out of their house and part of their brick wall or brick chimney fell on them," Jaume says. "So while the instinct is to run, don't do it."

Instead, Jaume says, remember to drop as low to the ground as you can, cover yourself with something like a desk or table, and hold onto something sturdy, if possible.

"The most important thing to do first is drop to the ground, the ground is going to shake really hard, you’re not gonna be able to run anyways, it’s gonna knock you off your feet," Jaume says. "Drop to the ground, get under a cover, cause if stuff starts to fall you want something to protect you."

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