June 1 marked the first day of hurricane season. For emergency managers and state and local decision makers, particularly along our coastlines, this season that runs through November 30 can bring many challenges. One of those challenges is when to order evacuations when a storm is moving in.
Timing is critical as are the logistics, but most importantly, the safety of individuals and families is paramount. That’s why S&T works to enable decision makers with actionable data that can help them take the best course of action for their communities.
Our Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence at the University of North Carolina provides the advanced circulation (ADCIRC) modeling tool that has become a trusted source for forecasting coastal storm surge and flooding. One of the many technologies highlighted in our 2015 Year in Review, ADCIRC has been used for every hurricane that has made landfall on the East Coast for the last seven years.
But this hasn’t kept researchers from improving on its capabilities that combines rain, atmospheric pressure and wind forecasts to predict when, where and to what extent flooding will inundate a coastal community. To prepare for the 2016 season, COE researchers went to places like Louisiana to see how they could further meet the needs of local officials. Updated information on levees and pump stations, for example, mean that the tool will be able to draw a more accurate picture when it matters the most.
Similarly, we are enhancing another existing tool for decision makers this year. On the horizon this 2016 hurricane season, S&T and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will introduce the extended- HURREVAC or HVX. This web-based system will be accessible from a variety of locations and devices. When finalized the new features will put even more data in the hands of decision makers such as state, local and tribal emergency managers, the Army Corps of Engineers, and FEMA.
Adding to this tool’s value is a new gaming-type training feature that takes an interactive approach and offers an economical alternative to costly travel to in person courses and expands access to training beyond the current handful of course offerings to all emergency managers. This is a significant addition for its technological merits, but more importantly because we are empowering communities to build their decision-making skills at a fraction of the cost. Developed with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory, this tool walks managers through simulated scenarios based on actual storm data and provides them guidance and feedback on understanding the data and improving decision-making skills. It will become available in the fall of 2016, and I look forward to its expansive use in communities across the country.
Lastly, as hurricanes can bring coast flooding to our communities, I remind our readers that our flood resilience dialog is well underway. If you’ve experienced floods or have insight on how we can prepare our communities better, join our National Conversation on our Flood Resilience and sign up at http://scitech.ideascale.com/ so you can get more information on the upcoming webinar.
Dr. Reginald Brothers
Under Secretary for Science and Technology