Preliminary Field Report – Matt Eatherton

September 1, 2011 by  
Filed under EERI Team Field Blog

Field Notes: Matt Eatherton

Notes on people’s responses and reactions

The earthquake was on Tuesday, by Wednesday, the Louisa County offices had about 200 reports of damaged buildings.  The Louisa EOC and building inspection department inspected many of those buildings on Wednesday.  A hotline was set up (managed by the Louisa County EOC) on Tuesday evening and was advertised starting on Wednesday.  Through Wednesday and Thursday, there were approximately 300 more reports of damaged buildings through the hotline.  In general there was not much overlap between the new reports and the previous reports.  Later, Scott Kein, Fire Chief in charge of Emergency Management in Louisa County, said that there were approximately 16,000 buildings in Louisa County.  He estimated that there might be 1000 citizens of Louisa County displaced by earthquake damage.

The reconnaissance team arrived to Louisa County Offices at 8:30am.  Scott Kein, in charge of the EOC conducted a meeting at 9am to send out building inspectors.  They had sent out a call to building inspectors throughout the region of Virginia.  Between the Louisa County building inspectors, and inspectors from surrounding areas, there were approximately 12 building inspectors mobilized to inspect damage on Friday 8/26/11.  The primary purpose of these inspections was to estimate the cost of damages in the County so that the region might apply to the Commonwealth of Virginia and the federal government for aid.

The team obtained a copy of the inspection form they were using.  The cost of damages was to be estimated two ways.  First, the building inspector was asked to try to estimate the dollar value of the damage.  Second, the damage was to be classified as “Affected”, “Moderate”, “Major”, or “Destroyed”.  Based on the classification and the last assessed value of the property, a dollar value of the damages was to be computed later after the inspections.  Varied definitions of what these classifications were discussed in the meeting.  It was proposed that if over 50% of the building was damaged that it might be “destroyed”, if 25%-50% of the building was damaged then it might be considered “major”, etc.  It was proposed that if it seemed like it would be cheaper to rebuild the building than repair, that might be considered “destroyed”.  There was discussion about what classification would apply to a fallen chimney.  The classification could vary depending on whether the chimney fell into the building or away.

Story told by the airport manager – she claimed 10-15 minutes of shaking.  She couldn’t walk.  Told us that they had lots of damage from the earthquake but it turned out to be some minor cracks in the CMU walls and cracking of paint over CMU expansion joints.  We concluded afterward that the public response to and perception of the earthquake is significantly affected by unfamiliarity with earthquakes and their effects in this part of the country.

Story of how the local high school was evacuated.  The fire alarms went off during the earthquake.  It is conjectured that this happened because one of the sprinkler lines broke and the drop in water pressure triggered the fire alarm.  Some classes tried to evacuate during the earthquake because the fire alarm was going off.  One teacher understood that it was an earthquake and had the students get under their desks, but the majority of teachers did not.  One teacher thought it was a terrorist attack.

There was a family from a neighboring county that drove to Mineral, VA to look for the hole that opened up in the earth.  They had heard that there was a hole a few feet in diameter that was 3.7 miles deep (coincidentally the depth of the hypocenter) that they had heard was at the location of the epicenter.

Several residents described that the ground was rolling like a wave.  Office Kane of the Louisa County Sherriff’s office was standing outside the Louisa High School.  He described undulations in the ground moving in an E-W direction.  He was standing facing west and when the earthquake started, he said that it felt like someone pushed him from behind.

Notes on Louisa County

Nuclear power plant run by Dominion Power.

Large lake on the north side.  There are five bridges in Louisa County, the main one is highway 208 crossing lake Ana.  There are two dams.

They do not have a hospital or clinic in Louisa County.  Charlottesville is the nearest hospital.  They have 3 full time and 2 part time Advanced Lifeline Units which are like ambulances.  These are based out of the fire station and county office.

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