Low-magnitude quakes felt in Buford, Sugar Hill near Lake Lanier in June
Map of Lake Lanier area near Buford Dam with dots located where the four earth quakes in June 2024 were location.

White dots show locations of the 4 earthquakes near Buford and Lake Lanier in June.

Within hours of the first earthquake near Buford and Lake Lanier in early June, various social media apps were practically smoking with comments, questions, rumors and supposition.

The first quake, on June 6, registered a magnitude of 2.5. Less than 12 hours later, a second tremor of 2.1 magnitude was felt in Gwinnett County/Sugar Hill. According to official reports from the US Geological Survey, two more tremors were reported: June 9 at 2.0 in the Richter Scale and June 13 registering 2.2.

While no injuries or damage was reported in the four quakes, the activity caused plenty of speculation about the safety of Buford Dam and Lake Lanier.

The US Army Corps of Engineers Buford Dam office issued a statement to assure the public that it was aware of the tremors and that the integrity of Buford Dam was not affected.

“Following the recent earthquakes in the Lake Lanier area, comprehensive inspections were conducted on all relevant infrastructure, including piezometers, seeps and weirs, (instruments used to measure core water pressure for leaks or flow),” said Tim Rainey, operations project manager at the Buford Dam off. The powerhouse instruments successfully detected the seismic activity.

“We are pleased to report that both the instrumentation and visual observations show no irregularities,” he said. “Therefore, there are no concerns regarding the structural integrity or safety of the Lake Lanier facilities.”

The Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis in Tennessee responded to an inquiry from Lakeside News.

“As you know there were four events in June on the south side of Lake Lanier, ranging in magnitude from 2.1 to 2.5 on June 6, 7, 9, and 13,” said Mitch Withers, associate research professor at the university of Memphis “It isn’t unusual for small short-lived groups of earthquakes anywhere in the East. Nevertheless two Georgia Tech researchers are deploying a few sensors to investigate.”

The mainstream news media reported the tremors and cited sources from the US Geological Survey from professors at Georgia Tech to local law enforcement and experts from Virginia Tech.

Here’s what geophysicist and duty seismologist Yaareb Altaweel of the U.S. Geological Survey, which constantly monitors and reports earthquakes around the globe, said by way of putting the incidents into perspective.

“Earthquakes are very common all around the world, but the public only hears about either major devasting events or if the quake affects them,” he said. “Our office tracks every earthquake event 24 hours a day seven days a week, and we encourage people to go to our website to report “felts,” when they have experienced a tremor or shake. If you feel it, report it.

“We turn to our scientific instrumentation to look for each incident and confirm it,” he said. “As an example, a recent 3.8 magnitude tremor in Tennessee had 276 ‘felts,’ meaning that 276 people reported the occurrence. We were able to verify that the event occurred.”

Altaweel explained that most large earthquakes happen at the juncture of the edges of two or more tectonic plates. “Places such as Turkey, Africa and Japan sit above these large pieces of the Earth’s crust and uppermost mantle and when they shift significantly an earthquake can result,” he said. “The Earth’s crust is constantly under stress and pressures and numerous earthquakes happen every day around the world.”

He said that the vast majority do not result in devastating damage or destruction, injuries or death.

“Basically, social media talks too much and their expertise in most matters is near zero,” he said. “We rely on scientific information, measures by instrumentation and objective data to make our assessments and reports.

“These were small incidents and are not worrisome,” he said. “From our analysis, there’s a low probability that a large earthquake in this area (of Georgia) would occur.”

The US Geological Survey is the science arm of the US Department of the Interior.

As the science arm of that department, the USGS brings an array of earth, water, biological, and mapping data and expertise to bear in support of decision-making on environmental, resource, and public safety issues.

To learn more about earthquakes, volcanoes, their occurrences and to report an incident, visit usgs.gov.

Image: courtesy of USGS.gov.