Earthquake History

The first earthquakes reported felt in Georgia were the great New Madrid series of 1811 - 1812. These shocks were felt over almost all of the eastern United States. In Georgia that series of shocks reportedly shook some bricks from chimneys.

The great Charleston, South Carolina, earthquake of 1886 caused severe shaking experienced in Georgia. On August 31 at 9:25 p.m., preceded by a low rumble, the shock waves reached Savannah. People had difficulty remaining standing. One woman died of fright as the shaking cracked walls, felled chimneys, and broke windows. Panic at a revival service left two injured and two more were injured in leaping from upper story windows. Several more were injured by falling bricks. Ten buildings in Savannah were damaged beyond repair and at least 240 chimneys damaged. People spent the night outside.

At Tybee Island light station the 134 foot lighthouse was cracked near the middle where the walls were six feet thick, and the one-ton lens moved an inch and a half to the northeast.

In Augusta the shaking was the most severe (VIII on the Modified Mercalli scale) in the State. An estimated 1000 chimneys and many buildings were damaged. The business and social life was paralyzed for two days. Brunswick and Darien were alarmed.

An earthquake on June 17, 1872, at Milledgeville, and had an intensity of at least V on the Modified Mercalli scale, the lowest intensity in which some damage may occur. It was reported as a sharp shock, jarring brick buildings and rattling windows.

On November 1, 1875, at 9:55 in the evening, an intensity VI earthquake occurred near the South Carolina border. It was felt from Sparatansburg and Columbia, South Carolina, to Atlanta and Macon, Georgia, from Gainesville to Augusta, and generally over an area of 25,00 square miles.

A more local event occurred on October 18, 1902, with a sharp shock felt along the east face of Rocky Face Mountain west of Dalton with intensity VI and at La Fayette with intensity V. The felt area was about 1500 square miles, and included Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The Savannah area was shaken with an intensity VI earthquake on January 23, 1903. Centering near Tybee Island, it was felt over an area of 10,000 square miles including Savannah (intensity VI), Augusta (intensity III), Charleston (intensity IV-V), and Columbia (intensity III-IV). Houses were strongly shaken. Another shock was felt on June 20, 1912, at Savannah with intensity V.

On March 5, 1916, an earthquake centered 30 miles southeast of Atlanta was felt over an area of 50,00 square miles, as far as Cherokee County, North Carolina, by several people in Raleigh, and in parts of Alabama and Tennessee.

An earthquake of intensity V or over occurred on March 12, 1964, near Haddock, less than 20 miles northeast of Macon. Intensity V was recorded at Haddock while shaking was felt in four counties over a 400-square-mile area.

Abridged from Earthquake Information Bulletin, Volume 3, Number 6, November-December 1971.

For a list of earthquakes that have occurred since this article was written, use the Earthquake Search.