Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rockets, Mortars, and Water Heaters

So a couple of weeks ago I got the following email...

"...would like for a structural engineer to come over to their villa and check out damage from an explosion (not from insurgents). They would provide transportation.
Not sure what exploded"

I got to go check it out, kind of exciting. It turns out that a water heater in a back bathroom exploded. The force of the explosion was pretty amazing. It blew 2 large wardrobes that were in the next room through the window and out into the yard. It also blew doors off their hinges that were 4 rooms away. Pretty intense shock wave. Structurally, the building was fine..the force tried to blow the roof off, but instead travelled down the hallway and caused some smaller damage.

It turns out that water heaters in the States have both pressure and temperature valves. Water heaters are supposed to stop heating when the water reaches a certain temperature...if they malfunction the water inside keeps getting hotter and hotter and eventually superheats and explodes...which is what happened. In the States the extra valve releases the pressure or turns off the system so no explosion happens. That is not the case pressure release and temperature sensor!

I also got an email yesterday about a police station that got hit by a mortar...and they inquired about structural damage and repairs. Picture is below.

The mortar hit the roof and blew some of the roof away. Surprisingly, the mortar did less damage than the exploding water heater. But this way, you can see what an Afghan police station kind of looks like.

I also got a email yesterday that a rocket hit a construction site somewhere else in the country and damaged a steel beam. It blew a section out of the beam and we have to design a fix based on some pictures.

A flurry of stuff to deal with, kind of exciting couple of days...breaks up the monotony of desk work.

Less than a week until R&R, I'm excited to get out of here for a couple of weeks.


  1. I don't know why this made me laugh out loud. Water heater explosion doing more damage than a mortar? Actually is kind of funny!

  2. Sounds like life is getting pretty exciting over there! We'll see you soon!

  3. I'm looking for a job . . . perhaps I should peddle water heaters with safety valves to these countries. Do the USACE travel by military helicopters at any time? I agree that a water heater can do such damage . . . and here we are spending so much on high cost weapons! Eight days and a wake up for you to see your family.