BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - Joanne Lopez has been living in Mexico City for seven years and the Williamsville South graduate said she couldn't believe the destruction from Tuesday's 7.1 magnitude earthquake.
"I got out of the building and as soon as I saw and as soon as I felt how bad it was shaking, I didn't even think I was going to make it out of that street alive," Lopez said.
Lopez works at a hotel in Mexico City called Casa Awolly. She immediately started taking video of the damage with her cell phone during the earthquake.
"You could see the concrete falling and people screaming," she said. "I didn't really think I would make it out to the corner because of the electricity poles. I really thought that something was going to fall on my head.
Nothing could prepare Lopez for a natural disaster like this.
"As much as you want to think that you're ready for an earthquake and you've seen it in movies, because that's where I thought I was on the set of a movie, you think you're going to react a certain way but you can't react that way."
University at Buffalo's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is home to the Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEES). Researchers can take life-sized structures and simulate shaking as powerful as any earthquake on the planet.
"These tables are capable of recreating motions that can simulate pretty much any earthquake either historical or artificial," Mark Pitman, SEES technical services manager, explained. "The intensity of the records is not really an issue for us."
The research helps communities more likely to be hit by an earthquake better prepare by better understanding how to create buildings and systems that can withstand these disasters.
But, as engineering professor Amjad Aref explained, earthquakes as powerful as the one that just hit Mexico City are difficult to ever be prepared for.
"A 7.1 [magnitude] is a very strong ground shaking that will cause a lot of older buildings to collapse as we see in this Mexican earthquake," he said. "And modern buildings might also sustain some damage."