Cathy Buskirk heard the low rumbling first. It sounded like a train or a low-flying airliner but then immediately the walls of her Wescott Plantation home started shaking early Wednesday. Her first thought was earthquake.
Buskirk meticulously ruled out the other possibilities, including the suggestion of her half-asleep husband that it might have been a speeding car.
"No, it's not a speeding car," she told him.
Buskirk's suspicions were eventually confirmed. An earthquake measuring 2.8 on the Richter scale rattled the area near Wescott Plantation, about six miles south of Summerville, at 5:03 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Earthquakes are steadily reaching into the Lowcountry consciousness. Wednesday's was at least the fourth earthquake of 2.5 or larger to hit the Lowcountry since 2007. All but one were in the Summerville area, as were two 4.1 quakes that hit in April 1995 and August of 1992.
The area's most damaging earthquake on record hit in August 1886, killing 60 people and flattening buildings with its 7.3-magnitude intensity.
Wednesday's temblor is consistent with other minor jolts felt in the Summerville area and not necessarily representative of larger things to come, said Erin Beutel, associate professor of geology at the College of Charleston and director of the S.C. Earthquake Education and Preparedness Program.
"It's typical for us to have a number of smaller earthquakes in the Summerville area," Beutel said.
Residents from Ladson to North Charleston reported similar shaking, like that of a train rumbling by.
No damage was reported, according to Dorchester County Emergency Preparedness Director Dennis Clark.
Chris Pereira of the nearby Whitehall subdivision said he was standing in his bathroom when he heard a boom, followed by a shaking that rattled his deodorant bottle as it sat on his sink. It awoke his wife with a start but was over within seconds, he said.
He had no doubts about what it was. He immediately contacted The Post and Courier using the new iPhone application for postandcourier.com.
"The whole house kind of shook," he said.
Clark said he hopes the temblor will raise community awareness about earthquakes. Unlike hurricanes, residents don't have time to brace for an earthquake.
"If they're ready for an earthquake then they're ready for a hurricane," he said.
Date — Location — Magnitude
Aug. 2009 — Summerville — 3.2
Jan. 2009 — Summerville — 2.5
Dec. 2008 — Summerville — 3.6
Oct. 2007 — Hanahan — 2.7
Apr. 1995 — Summerville — 4.1
Aug. 1992 — Summerville — 4.1
Nov. 1974 — North Charleston — 3.8