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1886 Charleston earthquake
1886 Charleston earthquake is located in South Carolina
Date August 31, 1886 (1886-08-31)
Magnitude 7.3 ML
Epicenter location 32°54′N 80°00′W / 32.9°N 80.0°W / 32.9; -80.0Coordinates: 32°54′N 80°00′W / 32.9°N 80.0°W / 32.9; -80.0
Countries or regions affected  United States, South Carolina
Casualties 60
Damage from Charleston earthquake of August 31, 1886
One of many "earthquake bolts" found throughout period houses in the city of Charleston. They could be tightened and loosened to support the house without having to otherwise demolish the house due to instability. The bolts were directly connected to the supporting frame of the house.

The Charleston Earthquake of 1886 was the most damaging quake to hit the Southeastern United States.

It occurred at 9:50 p.m. on August 31, 1886, and lasted just under a minute. The earthquake caused severe damage in Charleston, South Carolina, damaging 2,000 buildings and causing $6 million worth in damages, while in the whole city the buildings were only valued at approximately $24 million. Between 60 and 110 lives were lost. Some of the damage is still seen today.

Major damage occurred as far away as Tybee Island, Georgia (over 60 miles away) and structural damage was reported several hundred miles from Charleston (including central Alabama, central Ohio, eastern Kentucky, southern Virginia, and western West Virginia). It was felt as far away as Boston to the North, Chicago and Milwaukee to the Northwest, as far West as New Orleans, as far South as Cuba, and as far East as Bermuda.

The earthquake is estimated to be between 6.6 and 7.3 on the Richter scale with a Mercalli Intensity of X. Sandblows were common throughout the affected area due to liquefaction of the soil. More than 300 aftershocks of the 1886 earthquake occurred within thirty-five years. Minor earthquake activity that still continues in the area today may be a continuation of aftershocks. Very little to no historical earthquake activity occurred in the Charleston area prior to the 1886 event, which is unusual for any seismic area. This may have contributed to the severity of the tremor.

The 1886 earthquake is a heavily studied example of an intraplate earthquake. The earthquake is believed to have occurred on faults formed during the break-up of Pangea. Similar faults are found all along the east coast of North America. It is thought that such ancient faults remain active from forces exerted on them by present-day motions of the North American Plate. The exact mechanisms of intraplate earthquakes are a subject of much ongoing research.

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