Most think of California or the West Coast as the likely source for an earthquake.
But as rare as they are to North Georgia and southeastern U.S., earthquakes can happen here, and their effects can be felt from far away, as residents found out Friday night.
A Friday evening quake measured 4.1 on the Richter scale, downgraded from an original reading of 4.4, and was centered about 7 miles west-northwest of Edgefield, S.C., not far from Augusta, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website.
It struck at 10:23 p.m. and hit about 4.8 kilometers, nearly 3 miles, into the earth’s surface, the USGS reported.
USGS Geophysicist Jana Pursley said Friday night’s earthquake was the sixth since 1973 to hit within 300 kilometers of the epicenter at Edgefield.
“Earthquakes do happen. They aren’t common on the east coast of the U.S., but they do happen,” she said.
She explained that the 4.1 registered on the Richter scale wouldn’t cause damage, but it could be felt from long distances. Gainesville is 143 miles from Edgefield.
Pursley said some places along the East Coast practice earthquake drills as people out West do.
Pursley explained earthquake safety as “duck-and-cover” measures, suggesting the best thing to do is to get under something sturdy, like a table, away from walls where things could fall, and wait until the quake is over.
“Most of the time, you have to worry about things falling off the walls in places where earthquakes occur because those things aren’t secured properly,” she said.
East Hall resident Donna Margaret said she was in her reclining chair when the she felt the tremor. She thought her furnace or a hose under her house might have ruptured due to the cold weather because she hadn’t been home for four days to run them and check them beforehand.
“I could feel the rumble in the floor. It wasn’t a little thump. It moved me from side to side in my chair,” she said. “My furnace immediately cut on after it happened and I thought my furnace might have exploded.
“I went outside to make sure my back deck was still there and it was.”
Margaret said the shaking lasted only seconds. About 10 minutes later, she saw on the TV news that a quake had struck.
“I was shocked to hear it was an earthquake and that it was so far away,” Margaret said. “But we could feel the sensation (of it) ... I looked on a map to see if we were on a fault or not.”
Lindsay Martin said he and some friends were at his downtown Gainesville residence when they felt the quake.
“We were just sitting there and the next thing you know the little thermometer (on the wall) and a couple of cups fell right off the wall and the table, and we were like ‘What the hell was that,’” he said.
“We just couldn’t explain it. ... We were like ‘Do we have ghosts in here?’ We were just sitting there watching TV and next thing you know, the stuff just fell off.”
He said friends in Clayton told him they felt the quake as well.
Martin said he’s originally from Alabama and had never felt the affects of a quake before.
“It was strange to have one here,” he said. “We saw on the news last night that it had a 4.1 magnitude in South Carolina and we were like ‘wow’ and we could feel it here,’ so, it was different.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.