Making Bridges Safer in the New Madrid Seismic Zone


As a geotechnical earthquake engineer, Clint
Wood studies how earthquakes affect the soil and how the ground and structures behave in
response to the various types of waves created by earthquakes. Wood and his students are working with the
Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to help make bridges safer in the New Madrid
Seismic Zone. The New Madrid Seismic Zone creates a very
large seismic risk for Northeast Arkansas, where the New Madrid Seismic Zone and the
Mississippi Embayment overlap to create a unique problem for the Arkansas Highway Department. We try to predict what’s going to happen during
earthquakes as far as ground shaking so we can better design buildings in the future
for life safety and for cost-effectiveness. Wood, an assistant professor of civil engineering,
studies this effect by first measuring the shear wave velocity profile of a site. He is one of only a handful of researchers
working to measure shear wave velocity at extreme depths such as that of the Mississippi
Embayment soils, which can be more than 1,000 meters thick in some areas. Shear wave velocity is simply how fast shear
waves traveled through a material. We’re interested in soils for earthquakes. The hog, as we affectionately call it, is
a vibroseis truck, and we’ve used it to generate active surface waves. You can actually feel it vibrate your entire
body and the ground action, and we measure the way the ground shakes. We predict what’s going to happen as far as
the waves propagating up through the soil column, and what the ground shaking is going
to be at the surface. That way we can save the residents of Arkansas
money, and we can also build a structure that’s going to hold up during earthquakes and be
safe for the drivers of Arkansas.

1 thought on “Making Bridges Safer in the New Madrid Seismic Zone

  1. When we have a massive earthquake that hits the New Madrid, what areas of Arkansas will be affected?

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