Earthquake Stories

Costa Rica 1991 - The road next to the river had settled severely due to lateral spreading.  If you weren't in a 4 wheel drive, you couldn't get by.
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Loma Prieta 1989– This damage was very typical of what we saw in the 2 to 5 story buildings of unreinforced masonry bearing walls.  The damage typically started at the upper corners and in this case was still in the early stages.
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Costa Rica 1991 – This was the first time I had seen a steel framed building collapse, but then we realized that the contents actually knocked the building down. These large rolls of paper were roughly 5’ tall with a 4’ diameter.  When they were stacked 3 and 4 high, that stack became very precarious when the shaking started.
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Costa Rica 1991 – This large building of precast concrete frame construction was still being built when the earthquake struck.  Obviously, this was a very dangerous scenario for the construction workers.
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Northridge 1994 - One of the numerous apartment complexes near the epicenter where the carport /1st story collapsed or was near collapse.  More victims were killed in this type of collapse by far than any other in this earthquake.
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Costa Rica 1991 - This is The Waves resort hotel.  The shaking was very intense in this area and the earth rose several feet as a result of the shifting of the plates.  The shaking of the structure exposed a short column deficiency in this structure leading to partial collapse.
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Costa Rica 1991 – The interior of this school library was a mess.  Somehow some of the bookcases remained standing, but obviously would be hazardous if school children were present.
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Costa Rica 1991 – This building was older and in very poor condition before the earthquake.  Constructed of non-ductile concrete and unreinforced masonry, it had little chance of survival when hit by the earthquake shaking.
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Costa Rica 1991 – This monumental building experienced some damage, but did fairly well in spite of its unreinforced masonry construction.
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Northridge 1994 - One of the numerous apartment complexes near the epicenter where the carport /1st story collapsed or was near collapse.  More victims were killed in this type of collapse by far than any other in this earthquake.
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Northridge 1994 – This parking garage at Cal State Northridge was photographed thousands of times.  I was walking across campus the day after the earthquake with Dr. Charles Thiel of the Cal State University system and we saw two guys on the inside of the structure with hardhats on.  We called to them to get out of there and they waved back (not recognizing Dr. Thiel) and yelled “It’s OK, we’re Structural Engineers!”
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Costa Rica 1991 – The hospital in Puerto Limon was shut down and they set up operations in the parking lot under these tarps.  It was a shame that the non-structural damage forced them to leave the building, although the structure appeared to be fine.
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Ferndale 1992 – This is one of many examples of where a one-story wood framed house slipped off of its cripple walls. The house was relatively undamaged, but the utilities obviously were disturbed.
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Costa Rica 1991 – We were traveling from San Jose to Puerto Limon.  As we approached the river, the soil was much worse and the road conditions deteriorated.  The portions of the bridge across the river had collapsed, all due to soil subsidence and lateral spreading undermining the foundations.  The piers on this bridge abutment were vertical before the soil moved during the shaking.  The concrete girder above slipped off of the abutment to the left of this photo.
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Costa Rica 1991 – This large building of precast concrete frame construction was still being built when the earthquake struck.  Obviously, this was a very dangerous scenario for the construction workers.
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Costa Rica 1991 – The first time I had seen a steel framed building collapse, but then we realized that the contents actually knocked the building down. These large rolls of paper were roughly 5’ tall with a 4’ diameter.  When they were stacked 3 and 4 high, that stack became pretty precarious when the shaking started.
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Costa Rica 1991 – This elevated water tank collapsed.  It was located on soft soil near the river and we noted that the foundations had moved causing instability of the tank above.  We observed several elevated tanks that had collapsed in the area.
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Costa Rica 1991 – This elementary school building was heavily damaged by the earthquake.  This photo shows damage to a non-ductile reinforcing detailing of the corner of a concrete wall.
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27.	Costa Rica 1991 - Before the earthquake, the ocean water had swirled below this resort hotel, ironically named The Waves.  The ground shifted vertically several feet as a result of the earthquake.
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Northridge 1994 - One of the numerous apartment complexes near the epicenter where the carport 1st story collapsed or was near collapse.
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Costa Rica 1991 - In the main square of Puerto Limon there were numerous visual symptoms of liquefaction. This photo shows cracks in the ground as a result of some severe lateral spreading.
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Costa Rica 1991 – This elementary school building was heavily damaged by the earthquake.  This photo shows damage to a non-ductile reinforcing detailing of the corner of a concrete wall.
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Costa Rica 1991 – The first time I had seen a steel framed building collapse, but then we realized that the contents actually knocked the building down. These large rolls of paper were roughly 5’ tall with a 4’ diameter.  When they were stacked 3 and 4 high, that stack became pretty precarious when the shaking started.
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Costa Rica 1991 – We were traveling from San Jose to Puerto Limon.  As we approached the river, the soil was much worse and the road conditions deteriorated.  The portions of the bridge across the river had collapsed, all due to soil subsidence and lateral spreading undermining the foundations.  This view shows where one abutment had shifted laterally and pulled the other end of the span off of its supports. We had to drive through the river in our truck to get to the other side.
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Costa Rica 1991 - In the main square of Puerto Limon there were numerous visual symptoms of liquefaction.  This is a close-up of some sand boils that are a visible indication of liquefaction.
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Costa Rica 1991 - This building was a combination of what we call non-ductile concrete construction and wood framing.  Obviously, its detailing would not meet the requirements of our own building code in California.
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Costa Rica 1991 - The road next to the river had settled severely due to lateral spreading.  If you weren't in a 4-wheel drive, you couldn't get by.
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Costa Rica 1991 - Before the earthquake, the ocean water had swirled below this resort hotel, ironically named The Waves.  The ground shifted vertically several feet as a result of the earthquake.
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Costa Rica 1991 - Before the earthquake, the ocean water had swirled below this resort hotel, ironically named The Waves.  The ground shifted vertically several feet as a result of the earthquake.  The building’s structural system is a concrete frame with non-ductile detailing. The collapse appeared to be caused by a discontinuous floor diaphragm and non-ductile concrete reinforcing deficiencies.
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Costa Rica 1991 - Before the earthquake, the ocean water had swirled below this resort hotel, ironically named The Waves.  The ground shifted vertically several feet as a result of the earthquake and the water receded permanently.
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Costa Rica 1991 – This building was fairly old, looks like a combination of unreinforced red brick masonry, adobe, and wood frame.  Obviously there has not been any retrofitting completed.
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Costa Rica 1991 - Much of the building damage was due to substandard construction design and workmanship, as compared to what we see in California.
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Northridge 1994 - This type of damage was common in many of the unreinforced masonry bearing walls buildings.  Note the retrofit anchors visible in this view, without them the damage probably would have been worse.
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Loma Prieta 1989 - This was a pretty common scene in the Marina District, especially if the wood framed building was on a corner and not in the middle of the block.
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Ferndale 1992 - This wood framed house simply shifted off of its unbraced cripple walls.  Cripple walls are the short stud walls supporting the floor above the foundation in a crawlspace.
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Ferndale 1992- The small town of Ferndale was pretty damaged during this earthquake. My family and I were in the area for a conference.  I listened to damage reports on the radio and traveled to Ferndale to help.  I was the first Structural Engineer to arrive and the police chief asked me to start inspecting buildings right away.
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Costa Rica 1991 - The interior partition walls in this hotel were constructed of unreinforced terra cotta units, not too unlike the hollow clay tile partition walls found in some of our 1920's downtown buildings.
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37.	Northridge 1994 – Due to several reasons related to soil conditions and the reflection of the seismic waves, the shaking in Santa Monica was fairly significant during the Northridge EQ and it was one of the areas in Southern California that experienced more damage.
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Ferndale 1992 - Many of the wood framed buildings in Ferndale had virtually no foundations, and very little bracing in the lower stories.   Although heavily damaged downstairs, there was little damage above.
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Costa Rica 1991 - We could find only minor structural damage in this hospital, but the damage to other systems - ceilings, partitions, lighting, sprinklers and more was significant and they abandoned the building.
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40.	Costa Rica 1991 - A classic example of non-ductile reinforcing detailing in a concrete column.  This damage was found in an elementary school.
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Loma Prieta 1989 - During our work reassessing all of the red-tagged buildings for the City, I put together this map of their locations.  It’s amazing to see their geographical grouping.
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Northridge 1994 - This type of damage to the roof of a tilt-up building was fairly common - the roof framing pulled away from the exterior wall and was on the verge of collapsing.
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Loma Prieta 1989 - One of the many unreinforced masonry buildings that was severely damaged.  This view shows the temporary shoring that was installed to stabilize the structure until the options could be studied.
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Loma Prieta 1989 - This building on Battery Street was one of the most severely damaged in the Financial District.  It was later demolished although there was a lot of head scratching about how to possibly save it.
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