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Earthquake Damage to Transportation Systems

browse graphicThe Prince William Sound earthquake was one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded on the North American Continent. It was a magnitude 8.4 earthquake, felt over 500,000 square miles. The quake took 137 lives and caused $350-500 million in property damage.This photo shows a beached fishing boat in the Seward area. The tsunami waves severely damaged many boats and washed them into the lagoon north of Seward and onto the tidal flats at the head of Resurrection Bay. Dock and harbor facilities were destroyed. A section of the waterfront about 1,060 m long, including the docks and the small boat harbor, slid into Resurrection Bay.
Earthquakes represent one of the most destructive natural hazards known to man. A serious result of large-magnitude earthquakes is the disruption of transportation systems, which limits post-disaster emergency response. Damage to transportation systems is categorized in this set of images by cause including: ground failure, faulting, vibration damage, and tsunamis. This set of slides depicts earthquake damage to streets, highways, bridges, overpasses, and railroads. Earthquakes in Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Armenia, and the United States are represented.A large magnitude earthquake near a populated area can affect residents over thousands of square kilometers and cause billions of dollars in property damage. Such an event can kill or injure thousands of residents disrupt the socioeconomic environment for months, sometimes years. A serious result of a large-magnitude earthquake is the disruption oftransportation systems, which limits post-disaster emergency response. Movement of emergency vehicles, such as police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, is often severely restricted. Damage to transportation systems is categorized below by cause including: ground failure, faulting, vibration damage, and tsunamis. Ground Failure - A principal cause of earthquake damage to transportation systems is seismically generated ground failures in the form of landslides, lateral spreads, differential settlements, and ground cracks. During strong ground shaking, areas of clay-free sands and silts (where groundwater is near the surface) can temporarily lose strength and behave as viscous fluids. Consequently, highways and railways may settle or tilt in the liquefied soil, or are ripped apart as the ground flows or spreads laterally. Ground failure can cause movement of large blocks of soil on top of a liquefied subsurface. The lateral spreads, which break up into many fissures and scarps, usually develop on gentle slopes. In the 1964 Alaska earthquake, lateral spread failures damaged streets and highways, and restricted the use of railway grades and bridges. Ground failure also can dislodge rock and debris on steep slopes, triggering rockfalls, avalanches, and earth slides. The dislodged material is deposited on highways and railways, blocking traffic for hours or days.Faulting - Earthquake surface faults sometimes cross highways and railroads. Where this occurs, the roadbed may shift in the horizontal or vertical plane, or Roadway buckling sometimes results from ground shortening where thrust faulting occurs, and distortion can result from drag rebound or from concealed, closely spaced fractures.

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    Distribution Formats
    • TIFF
    Distributor DOC/NOAA/NESDIS/NGDC > National Geophysical Data Center, NESDIS, NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce
    Point of Contact Heather McCullough
    DOC/NOAA/NESDIS/NGDC > National Geophysical Data Center, NESDIS, NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce
    (303) 497-3707
    Heather.McCullough@noaa.gov
    Documentation links not available.
    Originator
    • DOC/NOAA/NESDIS/NGDC > National Geophysical Data Center, NESDIS, NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce (comp)
    Publisher
    • National Geophysical Data Center
    Date(s)
    • publication: 1994
    Edition: First
    Dataset Progress Status Complete
    Data Update Frequency: Not planned
    Purpose: Make available Damage Photos for research and education
    Time Period: 1946-04-01  to  1989-10-31
    Spatial Bounding Box Coordinates:
    N: 61.13
    S: 15.43
    E: 139.03
    W: -149.53
    Spatial Coverage Map:
    Themes
    • EARTH SCIENCE > SOLID EARTH > Seismology > Earthquake Occurrences
    • EARTH SCIENCE > SOLID EARTH > Tectonics > Faults
    • Disasters > Catastrophic phenomena > Earthquakes
    • Lithosphere > Faults > Faults
    • Lithosphere > Seismic activity > Seismic activity
    • WDC/MGG, BOULDER > World Data Center for Marine Geology and Geophysics, Boulder
    • DOC/NOAA/NESDIS/NGDC > National Geophysical Data Center, NESDIS, NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce
    Places
    • Global
    Use Constraints
    • Access Constraints: None Use Constraints: None Distribution Liability: While every effort has been made to ensure that these data are accurate and reliable within the limits of the current state of the art, NOAA cannot assume liability for any damages caused by any errors or omissions in the data, nor as a result of the failure of the data to function on a particular system. NOAA makes no warranty, expressed or implied, nor does the fact of distribution constitute such a warranty.
    Access Constraints
    • Access Constraints: None Use Constraints: None Distribution Liability: While every effort has been made to ensure that these data are accurate and reliable within the limits of the current state of the art, NOAA cannot assume liability for any damages caused by any errors or omissions in the data, nor as a result of the failure of the data to function on a particular system. NOAA makes no warranty, expressed or implied, nor does the fact of distribution constitute such a warranty.
    Fees
    • Free None
    Lineage Statement Lineage statement not available.

    Metadata Last Modified: 2011-04-06

    For questions about the information on this page, please email: Heather.McCullough@noaa.gov