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Engineering Experts Available to Discuss Tropical Storm Isaac

Released: 8/27/2012 2:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Johns Hopkins University
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Available for logged-in reporters only

Three engineering experts at Johns Hopkins University can talk about how the storm could cause coastal damage and power outages, and affect hospital functionality.

Hurricane-related Damage and Coastal Erosion in the Gulf and New Orleans
Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to become a hurricane by the time it reaches New Orleans, a city that was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago this week. For Robert A. Dalrymple, an internationally recognized expert on water waves and coastal engineering, this is familiar territory: He was a member of the first engineering team to determine the causes of the levee failures in New Orleans as a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers' disaster response team. 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. He 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 at Johns Hopkins.

Big Storms and the Power Grid
Hurricanes and other severe storms can play havoc with local power systems, causing short- and long-term outages affecting homes, businesses and public services. Dennice Gayme, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, studies ways to improve the sustainability, reliability and efficiency of the electric power grid. Her research focuses on large-scale integration of energy storage and alternative energy systems such as wind and solar power systems, into traditional electrical grids. She and her collaborators investigate power grid stability, peak usage scheduling, power grid interconnectivity and the most effective geographic placement of energy storage facilities and wind power plants. Gayme, who grew up in Toronto, earned a doctorate in control and dynamical systems in 2010 at the California Institute of Technology. She remained at Caltech as a postdoctoral fellow, focusing on power system networks. She joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering in January 2012.

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, Gayme, or Mitrani-Reiser, contact Amy Lunday at 443-287-9960 or acl@jhu.edu.

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