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The Great Shakeout Earthquake Drill

The Great Shakeout Earthquake Drill

If WNC residents feel trembling in their bones this Halloween, it might not be from children dressed as demons or the impending presidential election, but from a potentially life-threatening earthquake. Recently, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released the first earthquake report that includes not just natural occurrences but those that are classified as “human induced.”

As Mark Petersen, Chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project, recently explained, “Much more of the nation faces a significant chance of having damaging earthquakes over the next year.” The USGS warns, for example, that millions of people in the central and eastern USA are at risk for “damaging shaking.” In some places within that geographical area, the USGS describes the chance of damage as “similar to that of natural earthquakes in high-hazard areas of California.”

That’s why Chimney Rock State Park is hosting a “Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill” on October 20, to teach folks how to prepare for and respond to an earthquake with techniques such as the “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.”

Organizers of the drills, which are being held nationwide, emphasize that even those who do not live in earthquake-prone regions may still be at risk. And vacationers and travelers should be aware, too.

Now, more than ever, Americans need to be ready. The USGA has identified the major culprit for the recent increase in earthquakes as disposal of wastewater used by the oil and gas industry in the “fracking” process, since wastewater injection dramatically raises the pressure levels in subterranean rock formations.

That human activity is taking place all across the country. But naturally occurring quakes are already a threat to WNC — at least two major fault lines in the area are vulnerable to seismic activity. One runs all the way from Fontana Lake near Tennessee eastward almost to the foothills town of Hickory. The biggest earthquake to hit North Carolina — which measured a walloping 5.2 magnitude — happened along that fault line, 100 years ago in April. In 2005, an earthquake measuring 3.8 struck Hot Springs and was felt by residents as far away as Atlanta. And this past April, a 2.5-magnitude quake struck near Weaverville.

Even those perched atop the Blue Ridge aren’t immune, especially considering that the most damage-causing shock in the area had its epicenter in Charleston, SC, more than four hours away. That 1886 quake cracked walls and tumbled chimneys as far north as Waynesville — but back then, nobody had the chance to attend a Shakeout Drill ahead of time.

The Great Shakeout Earthquake Drill at Chimney Rock State Park runs Thursday, October 20, between 10:20am-5pm. Cost is included with park admission. For more information, check out chimneyrockpark.com.

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