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What’s the Real Damage to the Infrastructure During a Disaster? New Models Make Predictions

October 24, 2022 Leave a comment DRI Admin

Steel transmission towers are vital to sending electricity across long distances – and if they’re damaged in a disaster, the short- and long-term effects can be profound. New research may help prepare for the fallout.

Researchers at Ohio State University have developed a machine learning model that uses simulations to analyze the effects that prior damage can have on transmission towers once a second hazard hits. The simulations seem to confirm that the previous damage can have a serious impact on the reliability of electrical infrastructure if they’re not repaired in time for a subsequent disaster.

Particularly, the model used a combination of an earthquake and a hurricane, and found that while each is devastating to an electrical grid, the order of the disaster matters: the probability of a tower collapse is much higher if an earthquake precedes a hurricane, rather than vice versa.

These “fragility models” led researchers to the conclusion that tower failures after multiple disasters were especially damaging to the legs of the towers, which ideally should prevent a collapse. In its conclusion, the researchers pointed to the need for cooperation of both utility companies and government agencies to prepare for such potentially catastrophic damage.

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