The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Monday, 25 August 2014 10:44cat

California Earthquake Buckles Roads, Bridges Remain Safe

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The Alexandria Square building's top two floors were damaged by the earthquake The Alexandria Square building's top two floors were damaged by the earthquake Yahoo

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck the Napa Valley region on Sunday and injured at least 172 people. The earthquake left many cracked roads, damaged buildings, and broken wine bottles. The earthquake was the largest to hit the California Bay Area since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Safety inspectors have been working around the clock to check on the health of the area’s infrastructure. 

The Bay Area’s transportation network had many buckled roads, but the rest of infrastructure including bridges and railroad tracks were able to withstand the earthquake. Many of the roads that buckled, however, heaved upward as much as two feet in the Napa area and left cracks as wide as a couple meters. The California Highway Patrol and Caltrans Engineers were able to inspect all of the Bay Area Toll bridges as well as overpasses and bridges in the Napa, Sonoma, and Solano counties overnight and found no signs of significant damage.

Napa city officials required brick structures to get seismic retrofitting many years ago.  At least one building, the Alexandria Square Building located at the corner of Second and Brown Streets in Napa, that had previously undergone a seismic retrofit to make the building stronger in the event of an earthquake was severely damaged on Sunday.  The building’s walls on the top floors crumbled on Sunday and fell on the patio and sidewalk below. Many worry that despite undergoing seismic retrofitting, damage can still occur to unreinforced masonry structures.  “We can’t keep every single brick in place in many of these older buildings without extraordinarily costly retrofits,” said Fred Turner, structural engineer with the California Seismic Safety Commission. “We can reduce the damage in losses, but not eliminate them entirely in older buildings.”  Many cities have laws about seismic retrofitting older buildings that will prevent buildings from failing during an earthquake, but do necessarily prevent every brick in a wall from falling.

Crews will continue to inspect buildings and roads as well as make temporary fixes to buckled pavement to ease people's commute to work. Residents of the region are now bracing for afershcoks that could last for several weeks.

Sources: SF GateLA Times

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