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TV Note: 'NOVA' studies factors of WTC towers collapse

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

The World Trade Center's twin towers, hit on Sept. 11 by separate airplanes, were weakened by impact and fire, but they fell in different ways, according to investigators.

Tonight at 8 on WQED, PBS's "NOVA" offers "Why the Towers Fell," following 25 engineers as they probe the causes of the collapses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is to release the American Society of Civil Engineers' report earlier that day.

The 110-story towers were tube buildings constructed of closely spaced outer steel columns connected by rounded, 60-foot trusses coated with fire-retardant material. Elevators, stairs and utilities were grouped in a steel inner core.

The towers, finished in 1972 and 1973, were built to withstand heavy winds and, says one engineer, the possible impact of a Boeing 707, the largest plane at the time -- but not a conflagration fed by jet fuel. The 2,000-degree fires of Sept. 11 softened the steel columns of the perimeter walls and the core, as well as the floor trusses and the bolts that held them to the columns. The outer walls collapsed, unable to hold the weight of the floors above.

Producer Larry Klein's film ends by reviewing three issues: the adequacy of the drywall covering the exit stairs, the effectiveness of the spray-on fireproofing covering the floor trusses, and the strength of steel floor trusses and their connections.

"I think that you really can't build buildings above ground that would withstand something like that," said Klein, "but I think there are some things you can do that would mitigate the effects. There are some things you can do to make them safer. And that's what the report says."

(Patricia Brennan, The Washington Post)

'Breaking News' finds home

"Breaking News," the drama about a 24-hour cable news network that was abandoned by TNT after the network produced 13 episodes, has finally found a home.

Cable's Bravo picked up the series, which stars Tim Matheson, Clancy Brown, Lisa Ann Walter and Scott Bairstow. "Breaking News" will air Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning July 17.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

Locals on TV

Katherine Pink and Aran T. Burnett of Pittsburgh will appear on "Weakest Link" (6 p.m., WNPA). Pink's episode airs tonight; Burnett's airs Thursday.


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