Loma Prieta Earthquake Case Study Gcse English For Free

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 The October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake


October 1989

The earthquake caused thousands of landslides along steep slopes, from hills in the epicentral area to atleast as far north as the Pacific Coast just south of San Francisco.

Several residential developments in the Santa Cruz Mountains were badly damaged by these slides.

On Highway 17 two lanes were blocked west of the summit by a large slide. Large fissures opened inroadways throughout the Bay Area due to settlement and/or lurching.

This rupture of a 30-mile-long segment of the San Andreas Fault has not altered the assessment thatthere is a 50% chance for one or more magnitude 7.0 earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay Area in thenext 30 years.

The probability of a repeat of the 1906 magnitude 8.3 earthquake is still significant.

Damage to Buildings

The Loma Prieta Earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks resulted in widespread damage to a varietyof commercial structures. A large geographical area was affected, as is typical for an earthquake of thismagnitude.

In total, building structures experienced damage over an area of approximately 3,000 square miles.

Although damage was widespread, it was also quite sporadic. As would be expected, areas closest to theepicenter experienced the most concentrated damage. Farther away, heavy damage was generally limitedto buildings of very poor construction founded on soft soils that failed or amplified the earthquakeground motions. This is similar to the effects noted in the 1985 Mexico City Earthquake.

Earthquake effects also tended to be highly directional. Most damage occurred within a narrow bandthat extends northwest to southeast, approximately paralleling the San Andreas Fault. Thus manycommunities along the margins of San Francisco Bay escaped serious damage.

Unreinforced Masonry Buildings

As has been observed in past California earthquakes, the most concentrated and severe damage tobuilding structures occurred in unreinforced masonry (URM) bearing-wall buildings.

URM buildings, constructed of wood-frame roof and floor systems supported by thick unreinforced brickwalls, were commonly constructed throughout California until the 1930s, when new building regulationstaking into consideration the need to withstand earthquakes prevented further buildings of this style.

As a result, these older URM buildings are typically found in the crowded central business districts ofolder California cities.

The remote location of the epicentre of this earthquake allowed the San Francisco Bay Area to survivewith relatively few instances of structural collapse. Except for buildings near the epicenter, most casesof severe damage occurred in older buildings with little ability to withstand earthquakes and in areas ofextremely weak soils.

The fact that many inadequate structures in the region experienced little damage indicates that groundmotion in most areas was not severe.

Even so, most businesses experienced at least a week's business interruption and some capital loss. Manybusinesses must relocate to new facilities until their buildings are repaired or replaced.

In future stronger shocks or in earthquakes located closer to the major population centers, much moreextensive damage and commercial loss are likely.

A major and encompassing effect of the Loma Prieta Earthquake is to transportation. Several majorhighways, overpasses, and ground thoroughfares were damaged and rendered useless, some for only ashort time, others for as much as a few years.

Fire Following Earthquake

San Francisco had 22 structural fires and over 500 reported incidents during the seven hours from thetime the earthquake struck until midnight.

During this period over 300 off-duty firemen responded to a general recall, approximately doubling theavailable fire-fighting personnel.


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