Recap of 2010 National Hurricane Conference

John Minor of Complete General Contractors, Inc. attended the 2010 National Hurricane Conference, which was held in Orlando, Florida last week. The goal of the 2010 conference was to improve hurricane preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation.

The event serves as a national forum for officials at all levels and offers a chance for officials to exchange ideas and lessons learned from the past.

Some of the agencies represented at the conference were: the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the Florida Division of Emergency Management; International Code Council; International Association of Emergency Managers;  hurricane researchers from Louisiana State University, The University of Florida,  Colorado State University; the National Emergency Management Association; National Hurricane Center; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the National Weather Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Keynote speakers included a variety of professionals from university researchers specializing in hurricane testing to agency management personnel. One of the keynote speakers at the event was General Robert Van Antwerp of the US Army Corps of Engineers. His presentation was excellent and we are lucky to have a man like this serving the country. His no-nonsense attitude and get to the point method of communication is spot-on for his responsibilities. His one request was for one more year to have New Orleans and 220 miles of levees prepared for the 100 year storm. By the way, the General appeared in camo’s & not in his dress blues as pictured.

Also addressing the conference was Mr. Craig Fugate, the Administrator of FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]. The General provided Craig with a wonderful compliment that he was way too real for a government man. High praise is deserving indeed based on my experience serving municipalities over the last decade.

Dave Halstead, the Interim Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management was also present. His experiences with the needs of Haiti after their recent earthquake have given him a keen edge on what works and what could use some tweaking.

Representatives from The American Red Cross were there speaking as to the amazing changes social media has made in getting in touch with the public. Case & Point: The success in helping Haiti was largely due to millions of Americans texting $10.00 from their cell phones.

Dr. Forrest Masters from the University of Florida was a key note speaker and shared the real benefit that the country will see from the Digital Hurricane Consortium that Dr. Masters has been integral in putting together. This selfless collaboration of multiple universities will help all of us to better predict and hind cast hurricanes into the future. These types of acts must be supported by Americans everywhere and funding for these universities and organizations in the ounce of prevention will save a pound of cure.

Various lectures and forums of the 2010 National Hurricane Conference focused on the 5 threats of hurricanes: flooding from storm surge; inland flooding from rain; wind; dangerous waves; and tornadoes.

One of the issues considered at the conference was the use of storm-surge warnings. The National Hurricane Center is considering utilizing storm-surge warnings during hurricane season. Bill Reid, Director of the National Hurricane Center, noted that at times there are regions outside of a hurricane warning area that are vulnerable to storm surge due to the topography of coastal areas.  [Miami-Herald 2010 03 31]

In 2008, Hurricane Ike was a classic example of the devastation of storm surge as the hurricane eroded beaches and submerged vast areas of farmland in saltwater causing the ruin of thousands of acres of vegetation. The house shown to the right is an example of storm-surge devastation; it was located in Madisonville, LA far from Ike’s landfall. Officials say that the addition of storm-surge warnings will take several years to implement. [Time-Picayune 2010 03 31]

A change that will be seen in 2010 is that watches and warnings for tropical storms and hurricanes along threatened coastal areas will be issued 12 hours earlier than in previous years. Tropical storm watches will be issued when conditions are possible along the coast within 48 hours and storm warnings will be issued when conditions are expected within 36 hours. The step-up time in posting warnings is in an attempt to provide better and more adequate preparation time.  Link To : www.nhc.noaa.gov

The 2010 Season  . . . .

Experts, including Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University, are calling for an above-average season.

Some forecasters were predicting between 11 and 16 named storms, with 6 to 8 hurricanes;  3 to 5 of which will be major hurricanes. [Orlando Sentinel 2010 03 31]

Recent reports are noting that the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific that are still warm but will cool down by July and August, allowing for favorable conditions for hurricane formation. There is an area of very warm water all the way from the Carribean to Africa. The Gulf of Mexico is very cold due to the winter we have had, but the Gulf being a small and shallow body of water, it is expected to heat up quickly.

I attended several really useful clinics and talks on the effects of wind and flood on coastal structures and then several on the need for careful attention to high importance buildings. I learned a lot on what goes into the planning necessary to restore these structures. We heard from Dr. Tim Reinhold who should be exceedingly proud of his work getting their new research project together and looking forward to a fall opening. The new wind tunnel, the IBHS, will change the industry of prediction and prevention of wind damage to structures. I believe this is one of the largest and most important change the industry has ever seen.

Below are some sources of information from FEMA that should be very useful for specific technical questions that builders, designers and planners may have.

FEMA – Building Science Help @dhs.gov.

(866) 927-2104

www.FEMA.gov/Rebuild/BuildingScience

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