Aug 3, 2007 12:00 AM
Many thanks for many kind email messages and phone calls after the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis.
I was in my office about 200 yards from the bridge (attached please find a picture with a red arrow to my corner office on the fifth floor of the six story building) with two walls of glass in my office facing Mississippi River and the I-35W bridge that collapsed.
The rescue effort was amazing, especially the number of university students and other members of the community and first responders who were carrying wounded people and looking for injured. Although emergency crews and police prefer and instruct that civilians stay away.
Here is the more detailed email I sent to colleagues, staff, students and alumni:
From: Massoud Amin
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2007 7:17 PM
Subject: Tragic event-- collapse of I-35 bridge near Washington Ave and WBOB
A few minutes ago Bruce and I witnessed the sudden tragic collapse of the entire I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River near Washington Ave (exit 17).
I hope that you, all your loved ones, our friends and colleagues are OK and safe.
Prof. Bruce Wollenberg, Mr. Gary Smaby, and I were in my office at CDTL on the fifth floor of WBOB this afternoon. Shortly after Gary left, Bruce and I were discussing our smart grid research projects...
In our plain sight we witnessed this tragedy happen very shocking -the people on the bridge and people in cars, trucks, and a bus plunging down- immediately called the 911 and the University's emergency. The bridge sections buckled and several parts collapsed, almost in slow motion
Chris, Bruce and I were at CDTL and we just left the office.
I hope that you are safe. Our thoughts are with you and those unfortunately affected.
Sent from my BlackBerry handheld
... We have all spent the last day in disbelief running the tragic images in our minds and watching video images we thought only possible in other parts of the world or in movies. Yet this bridge collapse tragedy did take place in Minnesota, so close to our offices, reminding us of the fragility of life and how precious it is.
I hope that the other members of alumni/faculty/staff/students and family members are safe following this tragedy...
I was interviewed four times by BBC and by CBC and spoke on their radio and TV programs; they were all very gracious and grateful. In addition, an article on BBC news has briefly quoted me from my first interview last night recounting the events of the I-35W bridge's collapse http:/
/ news. bbc. co. uk/ 2/ hi/ americas/ 6927147. stm>
Please take a look at this: http:/
/ www. liveleak. com/ view? i= 1ab_1186054443&p= 1
I also recall that the bridge fell first at the short span on the downtown side, then the main span went down first at the downtown end, and broke off the opposite side short span (quite clear in video) which stood for a few seconds before the support buckled and it went down.
The whole scene played over and over in my mind all night - didn't get a good night sleep at all... I just got back from Rochester, Minnesota (about 95 miles away).
Thank you once again, and I look forward to seeing you soon in good health.
Best wishes and warmest regards
BTW, colleagues in the news media were asking me if I took any pictures or videos or "as an engineer, what is my assessment..."... Ironically I didn't take any pictures as I was busy calling 911, University Emergency, my wife, and then heading to the site to help if I could.
Regarding the areas of expertise, I told the BBC and Reuters' colleagues that for the design, inspection and condition of bridges it is important for them to speak with structural engineers; and referred them to BICE at the NAE, and professors in Civil Engineering who teach courses on bridges and also assess their condition.
For my expertise, I kept my comments as brief as it was relevant in the areas of the risk assessment, as well as reliability and robustness of critical infrastructure. As an example, I mentioned the ASCE's infrastructure score card that I provide to my students who are full-time working Mn/DOT civil engineers and city managers. They receive the complete handout of the scorecards and the summary reports/paper in one of my classes at the University of Minnesota (Infrastructure Systems Engineering-ISE 5302, Critical Infrastructure Security and Protection).
"In addition, even locally the issue of interdependency among infrastructures has kicked in... a transformer was crushed in the bridge collapse, and the West Bank Campus has been asked to minimize electricity use:
"The collapse of the 35W bridge has caused damage to the Xcel electrical system and is threatening the electrical service to most of the West Bank. Xcel is in the process of developing a work around to this problem. When this solution is in place, the service to the West Bank will be stabilized. In the meantime, there is some risk that electrical service could be interrupted, reduced or lost. The critical period is today and over the weekend"
I don't know whether I mentioned earlier that the rescue effort was outstanding, and my hat is off to the great work of so many amazing first responders and people involved in rescue and recovery efforts - although we only seem to notice the infrastructure when it fails or causes delays and disruptions in our activities. We expect it to be in the background and not to interfere with our wishes and activities.
Considering the tragedies of recent years, as we plan ahead, I hope that we don't take our nation's critical infrastructure for granted; and I hope that as a nation we'd dedicate a risk-assessed and increased resources to the "pipelines" including the key factors that would mitigate risks and even prevent similar tragedies and other infrastructure and corresponding human capital.
Infrastructure is Patriotic as it fundamentally underpins our society, our economy, and quality of life.
Have a restful weekend and please take very good care. I look forward to seeing you soon in good health.
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