Coastal modelers and decision-makers will gather this spring to teach, learn, discuss, plan and build capacity for a tool that provides decision support for hazards like storm inundation during tropical and extratropical cyclones.
ADCIRC Week, a gathering of professionals, academics, students and officials, will be held April 9-13, 2018, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Md. The event includes two major sections – the ADCIRC Boot Camp training event from April 9-11 and the ADCIRC Users Meeting, held from April 12-13.
The Boot Camp includes a high-level ADCIRC for Decision Makers panel discussion on Wednesday, April 11, for state and federal government stakeholders, including FEMA and the U.S. Coast Guard. It is a three-day training event overall and is organized by Dr. Jason Fleming of Seahorse Coastal Consulting, a co-PI on a Coastal Resilience Center (CRC) project. The Boot Camp has developed a reputation for intensity and quality and will continue its year-over-year growth in 2018 with an expansion from two to four simultaneous tracks. This year’s site hosts are NOAA’s Coastal Survey Development Lab and National Centers for Environmental Prediction. Read more
This year’s hurricane season has been one of the most active on record, with devastating impacts on coastal communities, including eastern Texas, both coasts of Florida and all of Puerto Rico. While hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria slammed the Gulf and the Caribbean, communities further north are preparing for their own high-impact storm: a hypothetical “Hurricane Rhody.”
Researchers at the University of Rhode Island (URI) are working to improve the safety and preparedness of Northeastern coastal communities by using model hurricane simulations. These simulations have served as a tool for emergency managers during state-level emergency planning exercises.
Dr. Ginis serves as the project’s principal investigator, and collaborates on the model with URI Drs. Chris Kincaid, Tetsu Hara, Lewis Rothstein and David Ullman. Other research partners include Florida State University professor Dr. Wenrui Huang; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Environmental Modeling Center, Northeast River Forecast Center and the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Boston.
“The primary goal of our project is to assess the impact of very large, extreme hurricane events using the most advanced numerical models,” Dr. Ginis said. “We’re going to use multiple scenarios based on real storms in the past, but also hypothetical scenarios that have never happened but could happen.” Read more
The ability to observe and predict severe weather events and other disasters has improved markedly over recent decades, yet this progress does not always translate into similar advances in the systems used in such circumstances to protect lives, according to a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM).
The report proposes steps to improve public safety and resilience in the face of extreme weather and other disasters. It includes a more cohesive alert and warning system that integrates public and private communications mechanisms and adopts new technologies quickly is needed to deliver critical information during emergency situations. At the same time, better understanding of social and behavioral factors would improve the ways we communicate about hazards, inform response decisions such as evacuations, develop more resilient urban infrastructure, and take other steps to improve weather readiness.
The Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC), based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is among four Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate Centers of Excellence cited in the report. Others are the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) and the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI).
“Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise,” which cites the CRC emphasizes the need for government agencies, industry, and academic institutions involved in the weather enterprise to work together to more actively engage social and behavioral scientists, in order to make greater progress in protecting life and enhancing prosperity. While efforts to improve physical weather prediction should continue, the report says, realizing the greatest return on investment from such efforts requires understanding how people’s contexts, experiences, knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes shape their responses to weather risks. Read more
Loria Martin was lucky this last time. Her home in Southern Terrace, a Princeville, N.C. neighborhood, was spared the flooding that impacted so much of eastern North Carolina when Hurricane Matthew hit the state in early October 2016. She has been supporting family members but is thankful damage to her home was limited to a temporary loss of electricity.
When Hurricane Floyd hit the area 17 years earlier, she wasn’t as lucky.
“This time, I didn’t get hit, but in ’99 I lost almost everything,” Martin said.
Martin was among several hundred Princeville residents who attended a multi-day Community Design Workshop, held Aug. 25-29 in neighboring Tarboro, to design a plan for a more flood-resilient future. The event was co-sponsored by the town of Princeville, Edgecombe County, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC-CH) Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC), North Carolina State University (NCSU) College of Design, North Carolina Emergency Management and the (N.C.) Governor’s Recovery Office.
This five-day workshop (see photos) brought together teams of land use planners, engineers, architects and landscape architects to collaborate with local, state and federal officials to develop three scenarios for a new 52-acre tract of land that the state intends to buy. The parcel will include houses, businesses, infrastructure, public facilities and community open space in ways that ensure that the new space connects physically, socially, environmentally and economically to historic portions of town. Located outside of the floodplain, the new space would make the town more resilient to future flooding.
The event was a unique collaboration between UNC-CH and NCSU. Faculty and students from the Department of City Regional Planning at UNC-CH, led by CRC Director Dr. Gavin Smith, joined forces with faculty and students from the NCSU College of Design for this effort. Read more
Q&A: Dr. Camellia Okpodu, Norfolk State University
Dr. Camellia Okpodu, Professor of Biology at Norfolk State University, worked on a cross-university project with Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) project lead Old Dominion University as part of the Department of Homeland (DHS) Security Science & Technology Directorate-funded Summer Research Team exchange program. Dr. Okpodu spoke about the scope of her project, her past experience with coastal hazards and her hopes for future collaboration.
Q: Can you describe your summer project’s goals and if you felt they were achieved?
A: The whole concept was having a systems approach to look at the idea of sea level rise. We are trying to understand how minorities, particularly under-served and under-represented groups in this area, respond to sea level rise and coastal flooding. From a dataset working with the University of Virginia, one of the outcomes was that minorities, particularly African-Americans, have a low affinity for the environment. That troubles me as an African-American person who grew up in coastal North Carolina on a farm – that is not my experience.
I wanted to be able to look into this, so when the DHS funding came about, I decided instead of just working by myself this was a way to work across universities in a multi-disciplinary way and to have a social scientist and students from that area who were interested in crime and social justice issues. This is how Dr. Bernadette Holmes got invited to participate.
I wanted to take this questionnaire from the University of Connecticut, not just to compare directly with what he got but to ask additional questions. For example, one of the things I thought was culturally sensitive and I wanted to look at is that most minorities – people that are my age – we don’t refer to this area as Hampton Roads. We grew up calling this Tidewater or 757. One of the questions put on our survey is how they identify their area where they live.Read more
This past summer, Old Dominion University (ODU) hosted a summer research team led by Norfolk State University (NSU) faculty Dr. Camellia Okpodu and Dr. Bernadette Holmes as part of an interdisciplinary, multi-institution collaborative summer research project.
The project was titled “A Systems Approach: Developing Cross-Site Multiple Drivers to Understand Climate Change, Sea-level Rise and Coastal Flooding for an African American Community in Portsmouth, VA.” Dr. Okpodu, Professor of Biology, led biological and ecological aspects of the project and Dr. Holmes, Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, led the sociological part of the project. Read more about the research in this Q&A.
Funding for the project came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Summer Research Team (SRT) Program. The program aims to increase and enhance the scientific leadership at Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) in research areas that support the mission and goals of DHS.
The project included five students, three from NSU and two from ODU:
Raisa Barrera, Graduating Senior, Biology (NSU)
Mikel Johnson, Rising Senior, Sociology (NSU)
Bryan Clayborne, Rising Senior, Sociology (NSU)
Donta Council, Doctoral student, Public Administration and Policy (ODU)
For the second summer, undergraduate and graduate students in Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) education programs were involved in a wide variety of academic exchange and professional internship programs, providing them the opportunity to gain important research skills and experience designed to aid their academic and future careers.
Eight students who are enrolled in CRC-supported courses at partner universities were hosted by principal investigators (PIs) of CRC research projects through the SUMmer Research Experience (SUMREX) Program. As part of the program, CRC Education & Workforce Development partners arrange for one or more students to visit the home institution of participating CRC researchers for a summer research internship lasting between six and 10 weeks. Key to the program’s success is making the best match between the student interns and the research PIs, so that the students have the opportunity to become fully immersed in a research project. Students come largely from Minority-Serving Institutions, part of the CRC’s work to increase diversity in research environments.
Sabrina Welch, a PhD candidate in Engineering at Jackson State University, and Diego Delgado, a graduate student in Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, were hosted first by Dr. Stephen Medeiros at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and later by Dr. Scott Hagen at Louisiana State University (LSU).
During the UCF portion of her summer experience, Welch said she learned the fundamentals of the ADvanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC) model. This included the completion of a mathematical methods pre-test in addition to the Surface-water Modeling System (SMS + ADCIRC) boot camp tutorial. Two field days were also included, the first covering the basics of Real Time Kinematic (RTK) surveying, while the second day focused on teaching methods of assessing land cover in order to determine Manning’s n Value for a site of interest.
The second half of Welch’s SUMREX experience was spent at LSU, where she applied the knowledge gained at UCF. At LSU, she learned about high-performance computing and the Linux command line, the generation of ADCIRC required input files, executed storm surge simulations and analyzed output data.
“The SUMREX research program was a great experience for me as a rising ADCIRC user,” Welch said. “My participation in this program has led to an improved understanding of the ADCIRC system, which is beneficial since ADCIRC will play a major role in my PhD dissertation topic, and the knowledge gained will aid in the development of my aspiring career as a coastal engineer.”
In other pairings, two students from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, Hector J. Colon and Peter Rivera, both undergraduate students in Engineering, were hosted by Dr. Dan Cox at Oregon State University, where they learned about extreme surge/wave forces during hurricanes.
The University of Rhode Island (URI) hosted three undergraduate students from Tougaloo College: Psychology major Courtney Hill and Biology majors Rosalie Cissé and Kierra Jones. As a participant in URI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURFO) program, Hill worked with co-PI Pam Rubinoff on the CRC project “Overcoming Barriers to Motivate Community Action to Enhance Resilience.” The summer project examined how the 2010 floods of Rhode Island led to specific reforms, creating a timeline of events, gathering information from documents and press reports and creating a social network map to showcase the various roles involved when discussing the new policies.
Cissé worked on a project identifying species of toxic plankton bloom present in the Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound in 2016. Jones worked on a project analyzing the role of phytoplankton to temperature changes.
Summer activities also included a one-day exchange where students from Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) in Charlotte, N.C., visited North Carolina State University (NCSU). Nine students enrolled in a summer research program led by Dr. Hang Chen visited the NCSU Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering (CCEE), where CRC PI Dr. Casey Dietrich exposed the students to the concepts of computing-intensive and coastal resilience research.
The visiting students learned about the CCCE department, along with summer and graduate program opportunities. Dr. Dietrich arranged presentations and discussions with faculty members in their computing and system group. Ten faculty members presented their interdisciplinary research projects addressing problems throughout civil and environmental engineering using computational tools. The JCSU students also interacted with Dr. Dietrich’s graduate students and learned more about their individual research projects.
Imyer Majors, a computer engineering major at Johnson C. Smith University, said he learned “exactly what an engineering graduate student looks like and how much work and dedication is put into the students’ work.
“We had the opportunity to go around to each student’s work area and hear their stories on what they all created,” Majors said. “I love the honesty they gave on the difficulties they were faced with in certain areas of their projects, and how they were able to think of different ways to solve them.”
A graduate of a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) education program is part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) team aiding in Hurricane Irma recovery.
Matrix McDaniel, a spring 2016 graduate of Jackson State University who earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering, is part of a 14-person USACE Memphis District team responding to impacts of Hurricane Irma in Puerto Rico. The team arrived in the island territory on Sept. 11 to provide technical expertise and “turn-key” installation of FEMA emergency generators at critical public facilities, such as hospitals and shelters.
McDaniel joined the Memphis District earlier in the summer and is pursuing his Master of Science degree in Engineering with a Coastal Engineering concentration. His graduate education has been supported by the Education and Workforce Development program of the Department of Homeland Security Office of University Programs. One of the goals of the CRC’s education programs is to educate and place graduates in the workforce of the greater Homeland Security enterprise.
McDaniel’s role with the USACE Power Team is Action Officer, linking USACE, FEMA and other government institutions to fulfill requests. His background is in the technical elements of engineering, he said, and he has realized the value of project management skills in running on-the-ground projects. He said he credits his JSU education with providing a strong foundation in the engineering process.
“With project management experience, in addition to technical expertise, an engineer can venture into many more roles and gather many different experiences,” McDaniel said. “This is relevant because although the mission is to help repair infrastructure, the mission my team had was more about governing.”
The Power Team is part of more than 700 USACE employees in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, North Carolina AND Texas supporting the response to hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Hurricane Irma passed north of Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm on Sept. 7, causing more than 1 million residents to lose power in the initial wake of the event.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) hosted their first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Flood and Hurricane Meeting Aug. 3-4 on the campus of Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss. The CRC university network includes 21 universities and colleges from throughout the country.
More than 30 researchers and other professionals representing 21 HBCUs from Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama and the District of Columbia attended the meeting. The HBCU representatives interacted with CRC researchers on issues related to response and recovery from natural disasters within minority communities. Because of their locations, historical significance, and positive reputations within their surrounding communities, HBCUs are likely to be able to help improve outcomes within minority communities.
Stephanie Willett, a program manager within the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Office of University Programs (OUP), assisted with organizing the meeting. As program manager she has worked intensely with various HBCUs for the past nine years. She has overseen the management of grants, internships and summer programs intended to increase capabilities and involvement of HBCUs in homeland security mission space. The meeting provided an opportunity for HBCUs with ties to S&T and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to interact and identify synergistic opportunities for future work and opportunities.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, gave the keynote address at the event. Rep. Thompson, a Tougaloo College graduate, spoke about the partnership DHS has with HBCUs and the importance of diversity within the universities that are involved with DHS.
“When I went to meetings [at DHS], there was no one who looked like Bennie Thompson, and I wondered, why?” Rep. Thompson said. “I am trying to make sure the playing field looks like America.”
Rep. Thompson said that through dealing with multiple hurricanes in the Gulf region of Mississippi – including Katrina and Rita– he began to better understand the gaps in emergency management planning for underserved communities. These communities are often disproportionately impacted by natural hazards, he said, and a mission for HBCUs is to train future professionals to provide a talented, local workforce for major emergency management functions.
“We want to, over time, grow that product so we have it here locally,” Rep. Thompson said.
The event featured presentations on CRC education projects by Dr. Meherun Laiju and CRC Education & Workforce Development Director Dr. Robert Whalin. Dr. Gavin Smith, the CRC Director, spoke about the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative, through which University of North Carolina faculty, staff and students, along with state and federal officials, work with six local governments in eastern North Carolina to plan for long-term recovery needs.
Other featured speakers were Norma Anderson, founder of the William Averette (Bill) Anderson Fund; Ellis Stanley, Chairman of the Global Board of the International Association of Emergency Managers; and Dr. April Tanner, who teaches computer science at Jackson State University.
The Bill Anderson Fund (BAF) was started in honor of its late namesake, who was director of the Natural Disasters Roundtable at the National Academies/National Research Council. The BAF works to increase minority representation in the hazard and disaster mitigation fields, with a heavy emphasis on mentorship, especially of Ph.D. candidates. It currently has 14 fellows, more than 50 volunteers, and is supported by more than 700 individual donors.
Norma Anderson said she works to engage future scholars by asking them to think about their next steps and to ensure the hazards and disasters field reflects the society it impacts. Greater community understanding, she said, can help mitigate future hazards.
“HBCUs should be in a position of understanding what our communities need,” she said. “Many cities are a Flint [Michigan] waiting to happen.”
Stanley stressed the importance of coordination of individuals and groups within university communities to make sure those most impacted by hazards are involved in preparedness discussions. He said that many people don’t know who emergency management officials are in their community, and that students are more aware of community conversations taking place through social media. Engagement across income spectrums is also key to preparedness, he said.
“Poor people are probably the most resilient people in your community because they have to fight to survive every single day,” Stanley said.
Dr. Tanner spoke about her research on the role of social media in disasters. Pulling from government-established social media models as well as commercial systems, Dr. Tanner said she hopes to analyze data on past hazards response to improve response to future events.
Participants broke into groups to discuss how HBCUs could be better involved with the OUP mission and work on coastal resilience efforts specifically. Some of the conclusions and recommendations generated during these discussions included:
Utilize the expertise on HBCU campuses – law enforcement, emergency managers, urban planning, computer science – as well as existing relationships with disadvantaged communities and state and local officials.
Enhance campus and community engagement through a variety of education options – digital, in-person and tailored to communities.
Engage veterinary and agriculture programs to increase their capacity to prepare for hazards. Utilize agriculture programs’ relationship with the rural community and their additional resources to enhance relationships outside of campuses.
Identify other stakeholders within disproportionately impacted communities, including churches and nursing homes.
Emphasize the integration of social media, GIS mapping and other technologies in education and response training.
Meldon Hollis, J.D., a visiting lecturer at Savannah State University, said that education programs sometimes have to choose between training emergency management practitioners or future scholars.
“You have to figure out if you’re training people going out into communities or educating people to get their Ph.D or their master’s,” Hollis said. “We need both, but it’s hard to do that if you’re short on resources.”
Curtis Johnson, Director of Campus Safety and Government Relations at Arkansas Baptist College, said he hopes to further engage the law enforcement community on emergency preparedness and hazard mitigation issues on campus. He has worked to establish a formal emergency management program on campus, and the meeting gave him further information and contacts to push that discussion forward.
“I have already visited the City of Little Rock as far as integration with our campus,” he said. “I think we have some things in motion that we didn’t have before that will impact our city and the people who really need help.”
Dr. Jessica Murphy, Associate Professor and Technology Education Master’s Degree Program Coordinator at Jackson State University, said the discussion of drawing lessons from other countries was particularly interesting.
“At this point, we have been more focused on growing our program from within,” she said. “However, in working with other HBCUs with their distinct programs to grow our own, as well as working with international collaborators, I think that’s one of the key things that will expand our knowledge of emergency management.”
When Hurricane Matthew flooded Princeville last fall, it marked the second time in less than 20 years that a flood nearly wiped out the town. Local, state and federal leaders vowed to work with the community to help them recover and figure out solutions to help preserve one of the country’s most historically significant towns.
This week, local and state leaders will host a five-day community design workshop to bring together teams of land use planners, engineers, architects and landscape architects to collaborate with local, state and federal officials to develop three scenarios for a new 52-acre tract of land that the state intends to buy. The parcel will include houses, businesses, infrastructure, public facilities and community open space in ways that ensure that the new space connects physically, socially, environmentally and economically to historic portions of town.
“Princeville has a deep, rich history and incredibly resilient people,” said Dempsey Benton, Governor’s Recovery Office director who is leading the hurricane recovery efforts. “The town has a rare opportunity to develop a new portion of land that will be better able to withstand flooding while still preserving this historic community.”
The design workshop begins Friday, Aug. 25. Various local and state officials will make technical presentations to the designers to outline the planning and visioning process and also describe the culture and history of Princeville, review local codes and standards, flooding history, floodplain management and hazard mitigation programs. Additionally, they will discuss levee issues and proposed solutions, and review best practices and lessons learned from other community design projects across the country. Friday afternoon, local officials will lead the design teams on a tour of the community.
During the day Saturday through Monday, the design teams will create three conceptual plans for Princeville’s future. Each evening from 6 to 8 p.m., the three teams will present their ideas at an open house to gather feedback from local residents and town leaders, then adjust the designs based on input they receive. Residents are encouraged to come multiple nights to see the evolving designs as they change based on public input.
“Local input is critical,” said Mayor Bobbie Jones. “This is our town and we want our citizens to help decide its future. These plans will help ensure our future.”
Co-sponsored by the town of Princeville, Edgecombe County, NC State Design School, the UNC Center for Coastal Resilience, North Carolina Emergency Management and the Governor’s Recovery Office, the workshop is a one-of-a-kind collaborative effort amongst government agencies, universities, and subject matter experts to protect one of nation’s most significant towns.
“Our goal is to partner with the people of Princeville and together develop a workable plan for a community that is flood resilient, attractive, safe and welcoming,” said Gavin Smith, professor in the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning and director of the Coastal Resilience Center who is leading the Princeville design workshop.
Tuesday evening at 6, the design teams will present their final concepts for how the town could be developed in a way that connects the new tract of land with historic Princeville, while still allowing the town to expand in the future. Ultimately, town leaders will determine which plan is the most viable.