Tag Archives: Resilience

2 September 2016: Eleven years later!

It was 2005 when Florida was last hit by a hurricane. In fact 2005 was an Atlantic hurricane season for the record books when a total of thirty (30) tropical cyclones were generated throughout the Atlantic basin (See map of tropical cyclone tracks in 2005, below).

Map of tracks of the 30 tropical cyclones of the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The last time Florida was hit by a hurricane prior to HERMINE's landfall earlier this morning.

In 2005 Florida got hit by four named storms, Dennis, Katrina, Tammy and Wilma. But it has been mostly quiet since then, to the point that  close to 4.0 million residents of the Sunshine State may have never experienced the impact of a hurricane except on TV.

All of this changed a couple of weeks ago when a tropical wave emerged from Equatorial Africa and started moving westward along ‘hurricane alley’ , to then move close to the major Antilles islands of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba before continuing west into the southern Gulf of Mexico. On Wednesday 31 August the system reached tropical storm strength and was christened HERMINE, the 8th named tropical cyclone of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season.

HERMINE  turned toward the north and started aiming for the Florida Gulf coast, generating copious rain from southern Florida up to the Tampa-St. Pete region and inland areas. On Thursday 1 September HERMINE gradually got stronger and better organized, continuing to generate a deluge and violent thunderstorms along the length of the state while pointing at the Big Bend area of Florida’s gulf coast.

GOES EAST infrared satellite image in the early morning of Friday 2 september 2016 showing HERMINE, now downgraded to tropical storm, over southern Georgia after making landfall near Tallahassee, Florida
GOES EAST infrared satellite image in the early morning of Friday 2 september 2016 showing HERMINE, now downgraded to tropical storm, over southern Georgia after making landfall near Tallahassee, Florida

HERMINE became a hurricane by mid-afternoon on Thursday 1 September and continued moving toward the northern Florida coast, where it made landfall in the early morning hours (around 1:30 A.M.) this Friday 2 September 2016 in the Apalachee Bay area south-southwest of Tallahassee, the state capital.

The storm has weakened to tropical storm strength as it moves through southern Georgia and aims for the Carolinas and points beyond while generating large amounts of rain over a large region from southern Florida to South Carolina and beyond.

From early reports, it is clear that this tropical cyclone, which in times past would have been categorized as “just a category 1 storm” by some TV newscaster, has been a large, wet and rather dangerous storm affecting millions of residents in at least  five or six states. It goes to show, every hurricane must be taken seriously and considered life-threatening. HERMINE is not done yet, we will have to wait until it traverses the southeastern seaboard states and eventually emerges back over the ocean and dissipates while pulling away from the U.S.A. before we assess the actual toll of its passage.

As we deal with HERMINE’s impact, we must remain alert and not lose sight of the tropics in the Atlantic and elsewhere. For example, the ‘tropical wave assembly line’ in Equatorial Africa and ‘hurricane alley’, closer to us, are populated by numerous cells of disturbed weather and thunderstorms, which are seeds for potential cyclonic activity in the near term and beyond.

Satellite image over the Central Atlantic on 2 September 2016 showing Hurricane LESTER approaching Hawaii, after the state was recently hit by Hurricane MADELINE
Satellite image over the Central Atlantic on 2 September 2016 showing Hurricane LESTER approaching Hawaii, after the state was recently hit by Hurricane MADELINE

Over in the Central Pacific, the state of Hawaii has just had the impact of Hurricane MADELINE (now downgraded to tropical depression) while it braces for the expected impact of Hurricane LESTER fast approaching from the east. It looking at satellite imagery over the past few days as MADELINE approached Hawaii it was clear the high-topped volcanoes on the big island acted as a shield obstructing its progress and disrupting its structure. We will have to wait and see what target is found by LESTER over this weekend. Meanwhile, looking toward the eastern Pacific ocean we can see numerous tropical waves and cells of stormy weather over northern South America and the waters off the coast of Panama, Central America and Southern Mexico, which may fuel potential cyclonic development in coming days.

Infrared satellite image of 2 september 2016 of the Northwest Paciific, showing Hurricane NAMTHEUM impacting Southern Japan
Infrared satellite image of 2 September 2016 of the Northwest Paciific, showing Hurricane NAMTHEUM impacting Southern Japan

Doing a 180 and looking at the opposite end of the Pacific, actually the northwest Pacific, we Hurricane NAMTHEUM impacting Southern Japan. Currently the worst consequences are on the Kyushu Islands and the region where Nagasaki and Hiroshima are located. NAMTHEUM is moving generally north by northwest while generating plenty of rain in Japan.

Worrisome as these impacts and ensuing damage and danger to life are, I would like to close this by stating that we must also view them as opportunities. Opportunities to assess damage, to evaluate building performance, to determine causality, and to draw invaluable lessons regarding the resiliency of buildings, infrastructure and entire communities. This is the time when we can gain empirical knowledge regarding the factors that have contributed to damage, and the measures that were effective in mitigating the impact of these hurricanes.

Remain alert. Be prepared. MITIGATE!

At the AIA 2015: A message of optimism!

A week ago (May 14-16,2015) I participated in AIA 2015, the American Institute of Architects annual convention, in Atlanta. What an excellent event it was!

The AIA 2015 was hosted at the state-of-the art Georgia World Congress Center, just a few blocks from downtown Atlanta.
The AIA 2015 was hosted at the state-of-the art Georgia World Congress Center, just a few blocks from downtown Atlanta.

I had the honor of contributing to AIA 2015 as a speaker, jointly with my colleague Rachel Minnery, FAIA, in delivering a seminar: Beyond Single Building Toward a Community and Regional Resilience Approach (TH302 – also offered online at AIAU) ). This is the second time I have been invited to contribute as a speaker to the AIA convention. My first time was for AIA 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida where I guided a tour and presented a paper: Characterization of Impact: A tool for designing for disaster.  [please click of the following link TECHNICALPAPERfor tour]

Anticipation and excitement mount as more than 7000 participants in AIA 2015 pack the main auditorium for the opening general session and keynote speaker Bill Clinton.
Anticipation and excitement mount as more than 7000 participants in AIA 2015 pack the main auditorium for the opening general session and keynote speaker Bill Clinton.

Let me say this, for an event organized by a 158-year-old institution this one really energized me. I came back with a sense that this venerable and aging organization is full of pep with a message of optimism, and ready to do well not only by its members but for the communities where they practice, in the U.S.A. and the world.

AIA 2014 President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA welcomes participants to AIA 2015
AIA 2014 President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA welcomes participants to AIA 2015
AIA 2015 VP and CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA reinforces the message of the AIA having a voice and making an impact!
AIA 2015 VP and CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA reinforces the message of the AIA having a voice and making an impact!

From the opening remarks by AIA President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, and AIA Executive VP and CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA, to the inspiring contributions by AIA medal awardees Moshe Sadfie, FAIA and Edward Mazria, FAIA,

AIA medal winner Edward Mazria, FAIA for his work to combat climate change through the design of energy efficient buildings
AIA medal winner Edward Mazria, FAIA for his work to combat climate change through the design of energy efficient buildings
AIA 2015 Gold Medal winner Moshe Sadfie, remember 'Habitat' in EXPO 67 in Montreal?
AIA 2015 Gold Medal winner Moshe Sadfie, remember ‘Habitat’ in EXPO 67 in Montreal?

we heard words stated with forceful conviction about ‘doing things for a purpose’, ‘making and impact, and ‘having a voice’. I really believe that this institution that has done so well by its members, is now decidedly poised to take its rightful place in the national discourse and have its voice,  the voice of its 86,000 members, heard and listened to with the objective of tackling critical challenges we face as a nation and as humankind, riding our spaceship Earth. From climate change, environmental degradation, energy, to sustainability and resilience, the AIA intends to make a significant contribution in the search for and implementation of effective solutions.

Keynote speaker President Bill Clinton addresses the audience with a message that highlighted the tremendous opportunity that presents itself to the AIA moving forward
Keynote speaker President Bill Clinton addresses the audience with a message that highlighted the tremendous opportunity that presents itself to the AIA moving forward

This message of optimism was well-framed within the context of current world problems and future challenges, and the exciting opportunity these represent for the AIA, by an equally optimistic contribution by keynote speaker President Bill Clinton, during an opening general session attended by more than 7000 participants.

This sense of optimism is reinforced not only by what I heard from the AIA leadership and the members, but perhaps even more so by what I heard from and saw on the faces of the rather large contingent of young, new generation, architects and design professionals participating in AIA 2015.   During Q&A and in conversations with several of these young professionals after the conclusion of my seminar, I got the sense that they ‘get it’, they understand or know what the critical challenges are and they want an AIA that rises-up and confronts them effectively and with purpose. They do want an AIA with a voice that is not only heard nationally or worldwide, but that is sought by decision-makers here at home and elsewhere.

The AIA must follow these words and expressions of intent with actions. These actions must be based on a clear statement of  objectives, a well-defined strategy, and a simple and effective plan to execute initiatives on several fronts.  I trust the institute will open itself to new fields of action, beyond its trusted education and outreach activities. An example of such critically needed new fields is applied research; what I mean by this is research in the pursuit of effective solutions toward the attainment of sustainable and resilient communities in regions that are highly vulnerable  and fully developed, where we do not have the luxury of a clean slate to consider utopian design approaches, but where we must confront the reality of extensive urban development, a prevalent way of life and a standard of living, as well as critical environmental considerations to protect and take into account. While the AIA has no track record, to my knowledge, of engaging in or sponsoring this kind of research, I submit the time to engage in  it is now as this will contribute a foundation of support to the objectives of ‘making and impact’ and of ‘having a voice’!

AIA, I am ready to engage and do my part.  Where and how do I sign up for it? Thank you for an excellent AIA 2015 Convention and for the new and inspiring sense of purpose you have offered your members and friends.