Primary Case Studies

Man-Made Disasters

Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, April 1995/Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office

The Oklahoma City Case:  Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, 1995

On April 19, 1995, a truck bomb was exploded at the north entrance to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, injuring over 700 people, causing structural damage to 25 buildings and facial damage to over 300 buildings.  At that time, this was the deadliest attack on American soil.  The attack was planned by American extremists and carried out by Americans, and remains the worst case of domestic terrorism in the U.S.



World Trade Center,
September 2001/NYPD

The New York Case:  World Trade Center, 2001

On September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of The World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. and United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of The World Trade Center at 9:02 a.m.  Three buildings collapsed and numerous adjacent buildings in the complex sustained significant damage from the debris resulting from the collapse of the towers and fires.  Over 2,800 people were killed.  This is the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil.  The attack was planned by al-Qaida and carried out by 19 Islamic extremists.



Natural Disasters

Hayne Street, Charleston, SC, after Hurricane Hugo September 1989/Historic Charleston Foundation

The Charleston Case:  Hurricane Hugo, 1989

On September 21, 1989, Hurricane Hugo hit the coast of South Carolina with the eye of the storm passing just north of the city of Charleston, causing extensive damage.  Charleston City Hall and the fire station lost their roofs during the hurricane, while a dozen or more historic churches, and the City Market had severe roof damage. More than half of the city’s 4,000 historic structures sustained damage. Tidal flooding along the Battery was severe, with many historic structures receiving flood damage.



Homestead, FL, after Hurricane Andrew, August 1992/Greenpeace, Doug Perrine

The Homestead/Miami Case:  Hurricane Andrew, 1992

In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit landfall in Florida.  The devastation caused by Andrew was over a very narrow region of South Florida due to the compact size of the storm.  However, the narrow path of devastation was tremendous and deadly.  There were 65 deaths and over 200,000 people left homeless by Andrew.  Much of South Florida’s communications and transportation infrastructures were significantly impaired.  Tremendous loss of electrical power occurred; telephones, natural gas, water, and other essentials such as sewage treatment plants were terribly crippled.  An estimated 1.4 million customers were without power and utilities after the storm and some of these residents were
without power for up to six months.

The floods of 1993 inundated 80,000 square kilometers of land along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers./FEMA

The Des Moines Case:  Midwest Floods, 1993

From May through September of 1993, major and/or record flooding occurred across North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and Illinois.  Tens of thousands of people were evacuated, some never to return to their homes.  At least 10,000 homes were destroyed and hundreds of towns were affected, with at least 75 towns totally and completely under floodwaters.  The City of Des Moines experienced over 55,000 people displaced by the flood waters and 12 days with no water supply, as their treatment system was under water.


Parking garage at California State in Northridge, January 1994/U.S. Geological Survey, M. Celebi

The Northridge Case:  Northridge Earthquake, 1994

Approximately 330,000 housing units sustained damage and 65,000 housing units sustained major damage in the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake at 4:30 a.m. on January 17, 1994. Seventeen neighborhoods (called ghost towns) were uninhabitable.  Los Angeles virtually repopulated and rehabbed the damaged areas, including repairs to major highways, in a two year time frame.



Office building in Kobe, Japan, January 1995/National Geophysical Data Center, Dr. Roger Hutchison

The Kobe Case:  Kobe Earthquake, 1995

On January 17, 1995, Kobe, Japan, was shattered by a 20-second, 7.2 magnitude earthquake.  Approximately 144,032 buildings were damaged by ground shaking, 82,091 buildings collapsed, and 7,456 buildings were destroyed by fire.  Overall, 5,470 people were killed, over 33,000 were injured and 300,000 people were left homeless.  Kobe’s ports were shut down and all access via highway and railway was blocked.  It took Kobe almost 10 years to rebuild, a task that experienced mild public controversy but was primarily designed and implemented by a central bureaucracy.  This approach to memorial building and community rebuilding appears to have limitations in the United States, where the public tends to be more involved in community decision-making.


New Orleans, LA, after Hurricane Katrina, August 2005/Global Security

The New Orleans Case:  Hurricane Katrina, 2005

Hurricane Katrina hit landfall just east of New Orleans on August 29, 2005.  Because the most dangerous side of a hurricane is the east of the eye that contains the surge, New Orleans residents thought they had avoided the worst.  However, the surge had hit the mouth of Lake Ponchatrain, raising the water level and backing water up into the drainage canals.  As breaches appeared, water poured into the bowl in which New Orleans had been built, flooding virtually the entire city.  An estimated 204,000 homes and businesses were destroyed and over 1,000 people lost their lives.  Almost the entire population of New Orleans was displaced and the city now faces the challenge of rebuilding from a disaster that exceeds in magnitude any that we have seen to date in the United States.

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