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Archive for January 17th, 2010

Our January earthquake

I live on shaky ground, as they say around these parts. Every few years, we get an earthquake large enough to do some real damage. Our subduction zone has the potential to deliver a 9.2 earthquake that shakes for a long time, but we’ve been lucky so far.  Most of what keeps us safe though isn’t luck, but some of the toughest building codes in the world (yes, Sarah, you moron, there really is a purpose to building codes other than frivolous government interference). Haiti doesn’t have our building codes or the infrastructure to retrofit older buildings that are not up to code. If they did, they would not have had such widespread devastation and loss of life due to a 7.0 quake. In 1992, we had 3 strong earthquakes in 24 hours:  7.1, 6.6, 6.7.  There were 98 injuries, no fatalities, and only about 70 million dollars damage. That was in spite of the fact that the earthquakes uplifted part of our coastline about a meter.

Our earthquake on January 10 of this year was a 6.5 (earthquake magnitude numbers are not linear, so the 7.0 in Haiti was significantly stronger). It was very close to Eureka (the town 7 miles south of where I live), and the worst of the damage was in Eureka, near the waterfront. There was one serious injury (a woman fell and broke her hip) and numerous minor injuries from people being hit with ceiling tiles or falling down. People were literally knocked off their feet. Much of the area was without power for several hours at least (we were without power for 4 hours, so we had to put my mom on her portable oxygen tanks). There was no tsunami, because it was a strike-slip earthquake (horizontal movement instead of up or down). The governor was in town on Thursday to assess the damage and declare an emergency. Damage in the county is estimated at 42 million dollars.

Like I said, we were both lucky and prepared, but the damage was small-scale impressive. Several old buildings in Eureka had to be condemned. What follows is a sample of some of the damage. Most of the pictures were taken in Eureka, but some of them are taken south of Eureka, at Humboldt Hill, Fields Landing, and Ferndale.  Ferndale has many old buildings and was one of the towns that sustained the most damage in the 1992 earthquakes.

Old Town Bar and Grill, also known as the Lazio’s Building. Slated to be torn down due to damage. Located in Old Town Eureka near the waterfront.

Pile of bricks and roof debris from same building.

Cracks near the front of the building.

Broken windows, Old Town.

Cracked window, Old Town.

Foundation shifted and settled, Old Town.

Badly damaged building in Old Town. “X” crack is a classic indication that damage is not superficial and cosmetic, but structural.

Crack in same building.

Uh huh. Same building.

A better look at the “X” crack.

Back to the Lazio’s Building.

Chimney fell three stories. Old Town.

Entire structure shifted, bulged, and cracked.

Artist studio on third floor had complete damage, everything broken, serious structural damage. Old Town.

Avalon Restaurant in Old Town.

Closer look.

Another old building in Old Town. Sidewalk shifted and cracked as well as the building.

Not just broken windows. Look closely at vertical supports. Note that the first floor support leans a bit to the left, whereas the second floor support leans in the opposite direction.

Continuation of sidewalk crack from a previous picture. Old Town.

Eureka Theater marquee badly damaged, but this beloved historical building apparently didn’t suffer any serious structural damage. Downtown, south of Old Town.

Vertical crack, Old Town.

Crack, Old Town.

Broken windows, Old Town.

Building shifted, sheared. Nail actually backed out of its hole.

Location of previous picture.

Lloyd Building. Cracked bricks. Repair is under way.

Failed chimney in west Eureka, south of Old Town.

Same area, south of Old Town. California Street. This area was hard hit in 1992. Lots of old Victorian houses. Old Town sits on fill (very bad). This area sits on old terrace deposits (not as bad as fill, but not bedrock).

This house was the most badly damaged. It was on a raised stilt-like foundation and slid off.

Another chimney bites the dust. Very few brick chimneys left in the area.

Broken water main, on Wabash, south of Old Town.

The Bayshore Mall was hit pretty hard. It is an old mall, near the bay, southwest of Old Town. Lots of falling ceiling tiles inside, damaged entryways, and buckled, cracked parking lot.

Bayshore Mall parking lot.

Sidewalk.

Damaged entryway.

Same entryway.

Same entryway.

Cracked street in Fields Landing, south of Eureka.

Old cracks from 1992 quake were reopened and extended. Fields Landing.

Fields Landing. House rotated clockwise off its foundation.

Abandoned gas station at the base of Humboldt Hill, south of Eureka.

Next day, back to Old Town. Newer bank building.

Same building.

More damage in the part of Eureka that sits on terrace deposits.

Ferndale Museum.

Ferndale post office had serious structural damage.

Broken windows, Ferndale.

More broken windows, Ferndale.

Historic Ferndale Cemetary sustained quite a bit of damage.

Note the clockwise rotation of upper part of grave monument.

Another monument rotated.

Cracks in the mud along the Eel River, near Ferndale.

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