Author: admin

4 Dec

Learning from Earthquakes: Returning to New Zealand

Learning from Earthquakes: Returning to New Zealand to observe long-term recovery efforts after the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquake sequence and 2016 Mw 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake

By Christine Z. Beyzaei, Ph.D., P.E.

Post-earthquake reconnaissance typically, and by necessity, focuses on documenting observations immediately following an earthquake. Subsequent efforts may involve follow-up visits to the affected area, but these are often performed as part of individual research projects investigating specific observations from the event and may be focused primarily within a specific discipline (e.g., geotechnical, structural, social sciences). Documenting the long-term recovery process represents a unique opportunity to learn not only from the impacts of the event itself, but also from the response and recovery of an entire affected community. That is after all the ultimate goal in pursuing reconnaissance and research – to enable communities that can better withstand an earthquake event and recover quickly when one does occur.

The EERI Learning from Earthquakes (LFE) Travel Study Program provides the opportunity for young professionals to visit areas previously impacted by earthquakes and observe the long-term recovery efforts and resiliency measures implemented in the years following the earthquake event. The 2019 LFE Travel Study program brought a group of 25 young professionals to New Zealand, to observe recovery following the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquake sequence and the 2016 Mw 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake. The program was co-hosted by EERI and QuakeCoRe (a NZ Crown Research Institute), with participants from around the world comprising a diverse, multidisciplinary group. At the outset, participants were sorted into sub-groups representing components of community: Built Environment, Natural Environment, and Social/Economic Environment. Our goal was to consider our observations in the context of these community components, thinking beyond our technical disciplines to broader, interdisciplinary, and community-oriented applications.

Figure 1. 2019 LFE Travel Study Program participants and organizers (Image source: Laura Whitehurst, Holmes Consulting).


Figure 2. Modified from “Integrated & Holistic Recovery”, Focus on Recovery: A Holistic Framework for Recovery in New Zealand (Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management 2005).

The program began in the South Island, in Christchurch and Kaikoura, and continued throughout the Canterbury and Marlborough regions. We visited damage sites yet to be repaired and rebuild sites demonstrating innovation and a community dedication to building back better. We met with engineers, government officials, emergency responders, business owners, health care professionals, and others, all of whom shared their time and experiences to transfer knowledge on what they’d learned in the 8-9 years following the Canterbury earthquake sequence, and the three years following the Kaikoura earthquake. We ended the program in Wellington, focusing on recovery following the Kaikoura event and preparedness for future events. A common theme throughout the program was that for community recovery to truly take effect, multiple sectors must work together and there must be clear and open communication with the community throughout the process.

Figure 3. Overview map showing locations of Christchurch, Kaikoura, and Wellington. Inset shows country of New Zealand (Image source: Google Earth).

At the completion of the program, each group prepared a report summarizing our observations (URL). Highlights from the program are presented in the figures below.

Figure 4. Red Zone to Green Space: Severe liquefaction and lateral spreading along the Avon River in Christchurch caused pervasive damage throughout the adjacent neighborhoods, resulting in the area being designated as the “Red Zone.” Homes throughout the Red Zone have since been demolished, leaving open green space. The future use of this area is still under debate, with potential plans including permanent designation as a recreational green space. Base map source: Land Information New Zealand – Canterbury Maps ( Inset photo source: Christine Beyzaei, from 2014, taken in the eastern Red Zone neighborhood of Bexley.

Embracing the concept of “building back better,” repair and construction efforts at Ohau Point have worked to incorporate considerations of both the natural environment and tourism needs. This includes construction of a sea wall with a seal passageway, a new pullover and lookout area with parking, and improved rockfall protection along the coast. Photos taken by author.

Figure 5. Structural systems: seismic repair and retrofit at the University of Canterbury campus in Christchurch. Viscous dampers installed above office space. Tour led by Didier Pettinga (Holmes Consulting). Photos taken by author.
Figure 6. Landslide dam formed in 2016 Kaikoura earthquake (known as the “Leader Dam”). Photos and lidar scanning from 2019 field exercise led by Michael Olson (Oregon State University). Equipment provided by the NHERI RAPID Facility. Observation and documentation have been ongoing since the 2016 post-earthquake reconnaissance. Photos taken by author, lidar imaging provided by Michael Olson
Figure 7. Fault scarp along the Leader Fault generated by rupture during the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake. Photo taken in May 2019 during Kaikoura Earthquake Ruptures fault walk led by Tabitha Bushell (University of Canterbury). Vertical offset of 3 meters measured during 2016 post-earthquake reconnaissance. The Kaikoura earthquake resulted from complex ruptures across multiple faults. There are ongoing research efforts to map and characterize the faults involved in the event. Photo taken by author.
Figure 8. Kaikoura Recovery: The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake underscored that the natural environment and the tourism industry are vital to the city of Kaikoura and the well-being of the community. Damage along the coast isolated communities and exposed vulnerabilities in existing infrastructure systems. Embracing the concept of “building back better,” repair and construction efforts at Ohau Point have worked to incorporate considerations of both the natural environment and tourism needs. This includes construction of a sea wall with a seal passageway, a new pullover and lookout area with parking, and improved rockfall protection along the coast. Photos taken by author.

It was an exceptional experience to work with such a diverse group and learn from others’ perspectives and experiences. On a personal note, the 2019 program also marked 5 years since my initial visit to New Zealand in 2014 for my doctoral research. In 2014 and 2016 I worked in Christchurch at the University of Canterbury, investigating observations from the Canterbury earthquake sequence and during that time saw the recovery as it unfolded. Returning with the LFE program gave me a greater appreciation for the aspects beyond geotechnical engineering, and the opportunity to see how it all fits together. A sincere thanks to EERI, QuakeCoRE, and the people who generously shared their time and their communities.

Christine Z. Beyzaei is a Senior Engineer in the Civil Engineering Practice at Exponent in Oakland, where she specializes in geotechnical engineering. Christine holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.S. from George Washington University.
13 Sep

Cushing, Oklahoma: What’s Happened to the historic downtown

Cushing, Oklahoma: What’s happened to the historic downtown in the years following the 07 November 2016 M5.0 Earthquake?

By Ezra Jampole, Ph.D., P.E.

On 07 November 2016 (01:44:25 UTC) a M5.0 earthquake devastated the historic downtown of Cushing, Oklahoma. Within a week of the earthquake, EERI sent a reconnaissance team to Cushing to document the damage to the built environment and implement a business resilience survey in the historic downtown, shown in Figure 1. The team documented their observations and findings in a report, which addressed seismicity, geotechnical and ground motion effects, performance of buildings/lifelines, nonstructural components, emergency response, and social/economic impacts. Summarizing the observed building performance, unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings in the historic downtown (built circa 1900) sustained significant damage, including out-of-plumbness, partial collapses, and extensive façade damage. This pattern of damage to URM buildings has been observed following numerous earthquakes around the world. At the time of initial reconnaissance, 41 businesses in the historic downtown were surveyed: 59% of were open, 15% were closed, and 27% had either relocated, were seasonally closed, or had already closed prior to the earthquake. Damage to light frame homes and other non-URM structures was relatively minor, and there were minor disruptions to lifelines. Buildings in the business corridor, mostly constructed in the last thirty years, sustained little to no damage.

Figure 1. Cushing, Oklahoma (adapted from Google).

More than two years after the earthquake, I returned to Cushing’s historic downtown to observe how the community had rebuilt following the earthquake. One of the most common damage conditions observed by the EERI reconnaissance team following the earthquake was spalled brick from URM buildings, which effectively closed the streets in the historic downtown for several weeks after the earthquake. Figure 2 shows a building on N Cleveland Avenue that shed bricks onto the sidewalk (left), and the brick façade has since been replaced by metal sheeting (right).

(a) November 2016 (b) December 2018

Figure 2. Brick façade repair.

Numerous damaged buildings have been demolished. The outer brick wythe of the Lion’s Club URM building, positioned at the end of a block of URM buildings on W. Broadway St., collapsed onto the street during the earthquake (Figure 3a). Additionally, the building had a permanent drift of at least 1% away from the adjacent building. In March 2017, the front of the building reportedly collapsed. The building has since been demolished, and metal siding panels now line the façade at the new end of the block (Figure 3b).

(a) November 2016, (adapted from EERI reconnaissance report) (b) December 2018, from NW

Figure 3. Lion’s Club Building demolished.

Several additional URM buildings with businesses along W. Broadway St. that sustained earthquake damage were demolished after the earthquake, as shown in Figure 4. An additional building was demolished along E Moses St. (Figure 5), however, there did not appear to be an operational business here prior to the earthquake.

(a) November 2016, from NE (b) December 2018, from NW

Figure 4. Buildings demolished in the historic downtown along W. Broadway St. at N. Cleveland Ave.

(a) July 2013 (Google) (b) December 2018

Figure 5. Building on E Moses Street demolished after the earthquake.


Repairs have not been completed on numerous buildings. Figure 6a shows stone masonry that was dislodged during the earthquake, and two years after the earthquake is sitting on the fire escape below. Figure 6b shows a building that experienced an extensive out-of-plane exterior brick wall failure during the earthquake. Tarps now cover the openings in the façade, and bricks appear to have been gathered at the site, but reconstruction has not yet taken place. These buildings are representative of many damaged buildings in the historic downtown for which repairs have not been completed.

(a)December 2018, spalled masonry unrepaired (b) December 2018, out-of-plane masonry wall failure unrepaired.

Figure 6. Unrepaired damage conditions.

Figure 7 shows the Cimarron tower, the tallest building in Cushing, a concrete frame building with unreinforced clay brick and terra cotta infill masonry. At the time of EERI’s initial reconnaissance visit, the terra cotta cornice on the parapet at the roof level was being removed because of concerns that the masonry units were loose and posed a falling hazard. Two years after the earthquake, the ornamentation has not been replaced.


(a)November 2016, from SE (b) December 2018, from SW

Figure 7. Cimarron Tower cornice removed and not replaced.

The built environment in Cushing’s historic downtown has not recovered, as evidenced by the numerous demolished and unrepaired buildings. However, it is clear that the town was already developing in areas away from the historic downtown prior to the 2016 earthquake, with most new commercial construction along the highway corridor. There appears to be less incentive to invest in rebuilding and reoccupying the older, damaged areas of town. Communities with older districts in disaster-prone areas may grapple with similar issues in the future, and should consider mitigating the risk to their vulnerable buildings.

Ezra Jampole is a Senior Engineer in the Buildings and Structures Practice at Exponent in New York City, where he investigates structural engineering failures. Ezra holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. from Stanford University and a B.S. from Northeastern University.

YMC Webinar – David J. Wald

Earthquake Engineering Research Institute


Case Studies of Financial Decision-Making using Near–Real-time Post-Earthquake Information

David Wald ymc webinarDavid WaldDavid WaldDate: Wednesday, January 30, 2018
Time: 9:00 am – 10:00 am PST
Speaker: David J. Wald, Ph.D. (M.EERI,1988)


About the speaker

David J. Wald, Ph.D. is a seismologist with the USGS in Golden, Colorado and is on the Geophysics Faculty at the Colorado School of Mines. Wald earned his Ph.D. in Geophysics from Caltech in 1993. He is involved in research, development, and operations of several real-time information systems at the USGS National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC). He led the development of and manages “ShakeMap” and “Did You Feel it?”, and is responsible for leading the development of other systems for post-earthquake response and pre-earthquake mitigation, including “ShakeCast” and “PAGER.” 

David has served on the EERI Board of Directors from 2014-2016, Earthquake Spectra’s editorial board from 2010-2016, and began as the Earthquake Spectra Editor in October 2018. David was EERI’s Distinguished Lecturer in 2014. He has been the Seismological Society of America (SSA) Distinguished Lecturer, Associate Editor of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America and served on the Society’s Board of Directors. He was awarded SSA’s 2009 Frank Press Public Service Award, a Department of the Interior Superior Service Award in 2010, and its Meritorious Service Award in 2016. Previously at Caltech, and now at the Colorado School of Mines, Wald has advised scores of post-doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate student research projects. His own scientific interests include a wide variety of earthquake applications including real-time monitoring, rupture processes, analysis of ground motion hazards and site effects, macroseismology, modeling earthquake-induced ground failure, citizen-seismology and estimating human and economic losses.

Professional Development Hours (PDH) will be available from EERI after the webinar for $30.
Questions? Please email us at
To register for the webinar please click here.

This YMC Webinar is supported with funding under a cooperative agreement (EMW-2018-CA-00005) with FEMA/U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The EERI Younger Members Committee (YMC) provides opportunities for graduate students and early-career earthquake professionals and faculty members within EERI. YMC Membership is open to all young professionals interested in actively participating with and supporting the mission of the YMC. To apply, please email

Purdue University welcomes Lucas Laughery

Purdue University welcomes Lucas Laughery

October 12, 2018

Lucas Laughery, Ph.D., an Associate at Exponent (and recent Visiting Researcher at Nagoya Institute of Technology), presented A Potential Problem with Reinforced Concrete Infill Wall Retrofits to the EERI Student Chapter at Purdue University on October 12, 2018. In this presentation, Dr. Laughery reported the results from experimental tests of vulnerable reinforced concrete frames retrofitted using high-strength concrete infills. The purpose of this work is to evaluate current Japanese detailing requirements and develop a possible solution to observed shortcomings.

Younger Members Committee