Report of Investigations--KGS


The demolition by implosion of the Capital Plaza Tower in downtown Frankfort provided an opportunity to record seismic waves from a known source of seismic energy in order to observe local ground-motion amplification and resonance within the underlying unconsolidated sediment. The Kentucky Geological Survey deployed three strong-motion accelerographs at approximately equal distances around the tower to record ground motions induced by its collapse. The KGS instruments were installed at sites with different underlying geology: one on bedrock and two on Kentucky River Valley unconsolidated sediments.

Using images captured by a high-speed video camera, with timing synchronized with the clock of one of the strong-motion accelerographs, the sequence of ground-motion-inducing events from the tower demolition (blast explosions and the collapsing tower’s impact with the ground) was identified in the ground-motion time histories recorded at the rock site. This allowed the ground motions from the tower collapse recorded at all stations deployed for the event to be isolated and analyzed. The ground motions from the tower collapse recorded at the observation sites were weak and were likely imperceptible to humans. The detected motions, which had modified Mercalli intensities of only I to II at the rock and soil sites, respectively, were unlikely to have caused any damage there.

Seismic-wave resonance within the Kentucky River Valley sediment was identified from the analysis of these recordings. The resonance frequencies were similar at all KGS soil sites, and also were similar to those observed on seismographs deployed by the Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Explosives and Blasting Branch. These observations indicate that in the unlikely event of a nearby strong earthquake, shaking is expected to be amplified within the unconsolidated Kentucky River Valley sediments underlying downtown Frankfort.

Publication Date



Series XIII

Report Number

Report of Investigations 2

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Statement of Benefit to Kentucky

This report demonstrates that ground-motion recordings, made on different types of underlying geology, using scheduled, human-caused events as a seismic source, can provide useful information to the public about levels of shaking (or ground motion), related safety concerns, locations susceptible to increased shaking in the event of an earthquake.

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