Unreinforced brick chimneys in the greater Seattle area were damaged repeatedly in the Benioff zone earthquakes of 1949, 1965, and 2001. A survey of visible chimney damage after the 28 February 2001 Nisqually earthquake evaluated approximately 60,000 chimneys through block-by-block coverage of about 50 km2, identifying a total of 1556 damaged chimneys. Chimney damage was strongly clustered in certain areas, in particular in the neighborhood of West Seattle where prior damage was also noted and evaluated after the 1965 earthquake. Our results showed that damage produced by the 2001 earthquake did not obviously correspond to distance from the earthquake epicenter, soft soils, topography, or slope orientation. Chimney damage correlates well to instrumented strong-motion measurements and compiled resident-reported ground-shaking intensities, but it offers much finer spatial resolution than these other data sources. In general, most areas of greatest chimney damage coincide with best estimated locations of strands of the Seattle fault zone. The edge of that zone also coincides with areas where chimney damage dropped abruptly over only one or two blocks' distance. The association between shaking intensity and fault-zone structure suggests that abrupt changes in the depth to bedrock, edge effects at the margin of the Seattle basin, or localized trapping of seismic waves in the Seattle fault zone may be significant contributory factors in the distribution of chimney damage.
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Chimney damage in the greater Seattle area from the Nisqually earthquake of 28 February 2001