Tuesday, March 09, 2010

What If New York City Shook?

Just how prepared is New York City for dealing with an earthquake? With the series of serious earthquakes around the world, including Chile, Taiwan, and Haiti and the massive death tolls that are associated with major quakes, it's not an entirely academic question.

Strong earthquakes have happened in New York history in the past, with a 5.5 hitting New York City in 1884. A 5.3 magnitude quake hit New Jersey in 1783 that was felt in Philadelphia and New York City. They could happen in the future, and while modern skyscrapers are built with modern seismic codes, older structures and those built on landfill might not fare nearly as well. Damage could be widespread, along with serious casualties.

It could lead to a major infrastructure damage, particularly where subways run in tunnels built using the cut and cover method. Utilities are likely to be seriously disrupted, particularly in Manhattan, and toppled buildings could block major streets and thoroughfares.

Bridges may also see damage, particularly the Brooklyn Bridge, whose towers and piers are constructed of stone and masonry and the Manhattan tower isn't built on bedrock but compressed soils.

It's just one more thing to keep an eye on.

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