Geotechnical Consequences and Failures in Puerto Rico Due to Hurricane Maria

At landfall in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, on September 20, 2017, the National Hurricane Center classified Hurricane Maria as a strong Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. This paper summarizes the geotechnical impacts and consequences from Maria, documented by the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) team sent to the island in its aftermath. The intense rainfall and strong winds associated with Maria directly or indirectly resulted in over 3,000 fatalities, severe infrastructure loss, over 40,000 landslides, and considerable coastal erosion in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Irma preceded Hurricane Maria by two weeks and this paper addresses the importance of antecedent rainfall and geomorphology on the magnitude of damage. Geotechnical impacts described in the paper include coastal erosion events, bridge abutment scour, the impact of debris flows on the island’s highway system, and foundation failures. The geotechnical failures presented in this article provide insight on the likely modes of failure when major hurricanes affect slopes that have been pre-soaked and are thus especially vulnerable to geotechnical failures. Since global warming will likely increase the intensity and frequency of extreme events like Hurricane Maria, understanding the impacts and aftermath of Maria in Puerto Rico should assist the engineering community in addressing geotechnical vulnerabilities, as well as improve design and construction practices, to improve resiliency.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Web
  • Pagination: pp 173-185
  • Monograph Title: Geo-Congress 2020: Engineering, Monitoring, and Management of Geotechnical Infrastructure

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01732296
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 9780784482797
  • Files: TRIS, ASCE
  • Created Date: Feb 28 2020 10:11AM