Engineering Experts Available to Discuss Impact of Hurricanes

Released: 14-Aug-2012 1:40 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Johns Hopkins University
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MEDIA ADVISORY: Engineering experts available to discuss impact of hurricanes
In the heart of hurricane season, three engineering experts at Johns Hopkins University can talk about how the next big storm could cause power outages and coastal damage, and affect hospital functionality. Please hold onto this tip sheet and refer to it for sources as Atlantic hurricane season enters its peak.

August 14, 2012
MEDIA CONTACT: Amy Lunday
Office: (443) 287-9960;
Cell: (410) 804-2551
acl@jhu.edu

Predicting Power Outages
A storm barreling towards the coast can drop some pretty broad hints about its potential impact. But researchers at Johns Hopkins and Texas A&M universities are aiming to put a finer point on Mother Nature’s plans. While it’s usually a given the power will go out at some point, somewhere, during a major storm, Seth Guikema and his team have developed a computer model that may help power companies allocate resources by predicting how many people will be without power and where the most outages will take place. Guikema, an assistant professor of geography and environmental engineering in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, says the goal is to restore power faster and save customers money. This hurricane season, the team will be running the model for storms that may impact any part of the Gulf or Atlantic coasts.

Hurricane-related Damage and Coastal Erosion
An internationally recognized expert on water waves and coastal engineering, Robert A. Dalrymple is often one of the first people on the ground in the wake of a waterborne natural disaster to analyze the damage and devise plans for better outcomes after future storms. As a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ disaster response team, he visited Thailand after the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean in December 2004 and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, when he was part of the first engineering team at the scene to determine the causes of the levee failures. He then chaired a National Research Council committee that examined the Army Corps of Engineers’ plans to provide hurricane protection to southern Louisiana. In June, Dalrymple was named to the Water Institute of the Gulf’ science and engineering advisory council. Chair of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Coastal Engineering Research Council and a past president of the Association of Coastal Engineers, Dalrymple has written numerous scholarly articles and a textbook on water wave mechanics and how powerful waves can damage harbor structures and buildings constructed near the shore. He is a professor of civil engineering in the Whiting School.

Hurricanes and Hospitals
High winds and heavy rain may not cause structural damage to hospital buildings, but power outages, downed phone lines and limited access to water can all become major problems for health care providers during a hurricane. Judith Mitrani-Reiser studies the functionality of healthcare facilities during natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, using her expertise as a civil engineer to help hospitals care for patients during crises. She was on the ground in Chile shortly after the devastating earthquake in February 2010 to study its impact on the hospitals there. Mitrani-Reiser found that even with backup systems, like generators and stockpiles of water, care was often inadequate. “Nonstructural damage causes lifeline outage, economic losses, loss of functionality, and building downtime,” Mitrani-Reiser explained to Johns Hopkins Engineering magazine. “Hospitals are critical structures that need to operate continuously after a disaster. They not only need to take care of their existing patients, but meet the needs of the patients who have been hurt by the event.” Mitrani-Reiser was also on the ground in Christchurch, New Zealand, a few days after the major earthquake there in February 2011.

To speak to Dalrymple, Guikema or Mitrani-Reiser, contact Amy Lunday at 443-287-9960 or acl@jhu.edu.

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