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Earthquake Hazard Assessment

Earthquake Hazard Assessment of Louisville, Kentucky

For much of the history of Louisville, as was typical for cities east of the Mississippi River, little consideration was given to earthquake preparedness or design. Due to the lack of any consistent seismic activity, it was believe that seismic design provisions were only necessary for cities near the west coast and other noticeable active areas. Recent research work, however, suggests that eastern cities maybe more vulnerable to seismic damage than previously believed. And thus, substantial damage could result from even a moderate sized earthquake occurring near a major city. Louisville in particular, may be at high risk to seismic damage due to its proximity to the Wabash Valley Fault Zone and its geologic setting.


The Wabash Valley Fault Zone is becoming increasingly important when considering seismic hazards within the eastern United States. While originally believed to be of only minor importance, work by McNulty and Obermier (1997), Martin and Pond (1996), and Munson and Munson (1996), has indicated that the region is capable of producing a relatively large arthquake event (greater than 7.5 moment magnitude). While there have been no recent events to confirm their work, palioliquefaction evidence suggest that a large earthquake has occurred in the region about every 5,000 years. These recently identified events are now significantly changing the seismological interpretation of the region.

As the scale of the earthquake event is increasing, new information is also being assembled which correlates observed damage with soil conditions. Within Louisville, much of the old portion of the city, and the heavy industry are located on the alluvial deposits adjacent to the Ohio River. The newer portions of the city, including many of the malls and surrounding suburbs are founded on the clay materials derived from the limestone bedrock. By knowing the expected earthquake damage, relative to the geologic conditions, different construction techniques can be implemented to reduce the system vulnerability and to assist with emergency response planning.


                                              Earthquake Hazard Assessment


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