Savannah's Buildings Are Earthquake Ready - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/12/02

Savannah's Buildings Are Earthquake Ready

An earthquake last night shook residents from Columbia, South Carolina, to Savannah. It registered 4.2 on the Richter Scale. The center of the quake was located in the Atlantic, about 16 miles southeast of Seabrook Island, South Carolina, off the coast of Charleston. One couple on Savannah's Southside says the rumbling lasted about 15 seconds.

Many of the homes in our area are safe when it comes to hurricanes--but what about earthquakes? Actually the building codes for hurricanes are much more stringent than earthquake codes, so many of our new homes--and surprisingly, the historic homes--would fare okay in a bigger earthquake.

Philip Webber of the Chatham County Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) says earthquakes are so infrequent in our area they can't even be put on a chart, but if one were to hit, many of the buildings would be ready.

"For the level of threat in our area, we have a reasonable level of protection," Webber said.

Back in the 1800s, people put steel beams in the buildings to protect them from earthquakes, and they can still be seen on some buildings in downtown Savannah. If you look closely, you'll notice a metal plate with a bolt through it on many buildings in the Historic District. Eric Meyerhoff has restored more than 100 buildings, and explains this is not a process used anymore.

"We don't do that anymore because now it is in the framing of the building," he told us.

A new building code is followed, and the walls of the home are tied to the foundation, and the roof is tied to the walls--this gives protection against the natural disasters that occur in our area.

"Then your buildings are secure in a hurricane and an earthquake situation," Meyerhoff said.

When it comes to the old buildings without steel beams, Meyerhoff says the material used was very substantial and would hold up.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

 

 

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