The old eastern span of the Bay Bridge in California "was stretched beyond its limits" during a magnitude 6.9 earthquake in 1989, according to Caltrans engineers. "This old bridge is the biggest problem we've got," said Steve Heminger, executive director of the San Francisco Bay area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "There is no fix to it, other than moving traffic onto the new span."
Engineers from across California assembled in San Diego this week to subject a bridge column to a simulated magnitude 6.9 earthquake. The test was designed to examine how well California's smaller bridges would withstand a major quake. Engineers deliberately pushed the column almost to the breaking point and said it withstood the punishment well.
Experts say China's devastating earthquake probably won't boost the bottom line at firms such as Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Co. "Earthquakes and other natural disasters almost never cause much of a change in the trend or magnitude of overall equipment sales," says Alex Blanton, an industry analyst at Ingalls and Snyder. In fact, profits at Western manufacturers could actually be hurt if the quake further increases China's need for steel.
In the wake of last week's magnitude 5.2 earthquake in Illinois, the U.S Geological Survey has updated its national hazard maps to show the 46 states facing significant risk of a seismic event. A worst-case quake along Utah's 240-mile Wasatch Fault, for example, has been elevated to a powerful magnitude 7.4.