In the weeks and months following Hurricane Katrina, several teams from MCEER visited the stricken area to collect perishable data on structural damage to bridges, buildings and other infrastructure, investigate the performance of the area’s hospitals, examine public health and environmental issues, and conduct surveys of large affected areas using state-of-the-art remote sensing technologies.
On November 2, 2005, the team shared their findings via a webcast seminar entitled “Examining Extreme Events: Hurricane Katrina’s Impact on Critical Infrastructure, Societal Systems, Public Health and Environment: A First-hand View from Satellite and Field Investigations.” The event was held at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts. Highlights of the presentations included:
Structural Damage to Buildings: Reporting on examinations of engineered structures in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, team leader Gilberto Mosqueda observed that similar types of damage occur in both earthquakes and hurricanes, and that aseismic details developed for precast construction could also mitigate damage due to storm surge.
Structural Damage to Bridges: Jerry O’Connor also emphasized the similarities between hurricane and earthquake damage seen in bridges, observing that seismic design techniques could have mitigated some of the hurricane damage.
Remote Sensing: Shubarhoop Ghosh described how his team used remote sensing technologies and the VIEWS™ reconnaissance system in urban damage assessment, and how field observations were used to correlate and validate the nature and extent of damage detected from satellite images.
Evacuation Plans and Organizational Decision Making: Daniel Hess discussed what he called a key lesson learned from his interviews with officials involved in disaster planning—the importance of planning for more than one disaster or hazardous event at a time.
Environmental Issues: James Jensen discussed the impact of flooding, loss of power, and loss of pressure in the distribution system on water and wastewater treatment facilities in Louisiana. Over 13 million people lost access to clean water.
Public Health: Pavani Ram stressed the importance of bottled water and waterless sanitizer in preventing outbreaks of disease after the disaster.
Seminar materials and are the archived webcast are available online.
The team members are preparing full length reports based on their observations and the data they collected. The new series, “Engineering and Organizational Issues Before, During, and After Hurricane Katrina” will include at least four titles. The reports will be available starting this spring.
Structural Damage: Gilberto Mosqueda (Team Leader), Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, University at Buffalo, Keith Porter, California Institute of Technology, Jerome O'Connor, MCEER, and Paul McAnany, bridge consultant
Remote Sensing: Shubharoop Ghosh, ImageCat Inc., J. Arn Womble, Wind Engineering Research (WISE) Center at Texas Tech University and Carol Hill, Louisiana State University
Emergency Response: Daniel Hess, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University at Buffalo and Lucy Arendt, School of Business, University of Wisconsin at Green Bay
Health and Environmental Issues: James Jensen, Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering and Pavani Ram, Social and Preventative Medicine, University at Buffalo