Tag Archives: South Carolina

Could that be Ana out there?

There has been so much foul weather and storms since the start of the year that most have failed to take notice that silently, almost stealthily, the ‘official’ start of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season has crept closer and closer, to the point that it may even get an early start.

GOES satellite image [NOAA] of 6 May 2015 showing a disturbed weather system, which may become the first tropical cyclone of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season
GOES satellite image [NOAA] of 6 May 2015 showing a disturbed weather system, which may become the first tropical cyclone of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season
A large area of low pressure and disturbed weather has moved over the Bahamas in the past couple of days and it is now located off the east Florida coast, getting more organized and looking cyclonic even as it tracks north by northeast in a mostly unfavorable ocean-atmosphere environment. This system is being investigated and followed by NOAA’s Tropical Prediction Center and the National Hurricane Center, which give it a 60% probability of developing into a tropical cyclone over the next 24 – 48 hours.  Should this come to pass this would become ANA the  first named-storm of the year, marking an early start for the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season.

Even if this system becomes nothing more than a large blob of stormy weather, it will generate an impact in the form of surge, wave action, rip currents, beach erosion, rain and gusty winds along the Atlantic coastal region in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas over the next 2 -3 days. All interests along this region must remain alert and prepared.

Infrared satellite image [NOAA] of 6 May 2015 showing Cyclone NOUL approaching the Philippines and Taiwan in the northwest Pacific ocean.
Infrared satellite image [NOAA] of 6 May 2015 showing Cyclone NOUL approaching the Philippines and Taiwan in the northwest Pacific ocean.
Elsewhere nearing the northwest Pacific, perhaps the most active basin for cyclogenesis in the world, and aiming for the Philippines and Taiwan, there is a strengthening Cyclone NOUL which may become a major hurricane in the next 48 – 72 hours as it gets closer to land.

Projected five-day track for cyclone NOUL [courtesy of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory]
Projected five-day track for cyclone NOUL [courtesy of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory]
A train of tropical waves and stormy weather cells has continued to develop off the coast of Panama – Central America and Southern Mexico, in a pattern that has been prevalent in that region over the last 3 -4 years.

GOES satellite infrared image of 6 May 2015 showing cells of stormy weather over the eastern Pacific
GOES satellite infrared image of 6 May 2015 showing cells of stormy weather over the eastern Pacific

As the tilt of the Earth’s axis continues to bring the northern hemisphere more and more under the direct line of the Sun overhead, we are bound to see and increment in tropical cyclone activity north of the equator.

1st Emergency Management Theory and Research Workshop

A flurry of major disaster declarations in the late 1980s and early 1990s reminded everyone  that we inhabit a vulnerable country and planet. In 1989  major hurricane HUGO  made landfall in South Carolina and the 7.1 magnitude LOMA PRIETA earthquake, which hit the San Francisco Bay area, brought death and devastation to both coasts in the U.S.. 1992 brought another double impact by way of category 5 Hurricane ANDREW, the first named storm of a rather  slow Atlantic hurricane season, which devastated the southern region of Miami-Dade County, Florida in late August, while another major hurricane by the name of INIKI devastated Kauai, in the state of Hawaii on September 11. The MIDWEST FLOODS of 1993 were of epic proportions in terms of the magnitude of the hazard and the human suffering they caused. In 1994 the magnitude 6.7 NORTHRIDGE earthquake caused 60 deaths and extensive structural damage, and loss of property in southern California.

Six years and six major disasters that caught many by surprise or largely unprepared. Six events that raised numerous questions about the capabilities, quality and state of readiness of our emergency management resources at the federal, state and local levels. Six major hits from Mother Nature that motivated FEMA to reinvent itself, together with emergency management infrastructure at the state and local levels. These disasters also generated a new model of emergency management where mitigation became the core, around which the traditional pillars of preparedness, response and recovery must be exercised. Relative to this FEMA’s Director declared that “mitigation  is the foundation of emergency management during a ceremony to launch the “National Mitigation Strategy“.

Two rather significant developments  during this time were: (a) the realization that there was an urgent need to professionalize the emergency management sector across the nation, and (b) the discovery that in a nation with a vast and rich infrastructure of higher education, less than 1% of the total number of universities and colleges had any kind of an offering in the field of emergency management, be it by way of regular courses, seminars, certificate or degree programs. What a dilemma! Even if we wanted to create professionals in the field of emergency management, meaning individuals with approved higher education course work and preferably degrees, the stark and problematic reality was that at the time our wealth of universities and colleges had practically nothing to offer to help in this endeavor.

The shock of this findings caused FEMA to launch in 1994 its Higher Education Project,based at the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) in Emmitsburg, MD, with the objective of motivating institutions of higher learning across the USA to start including content related to all aspects of emergency management in their curricula, and also to work toward the development of degree program at the baccalaureate or advanced degree levels. The rest is history; over the years since than historic launch date, the High-Ed program has continuously added universities and colleges to a growing list of institutions of higher learning that now offer degrees ranging from bachelor’s to a Ph.D.  in a wide ranging wealth of topics.

Twenty years later, this June 1 -5  FEMA will hold its 2014 Higher Education Summit at EMI and, for the first time will also hold its 1st Emergency Management Theory and Research Workshop, where invited designated emergency management scholars will share their experiences in designing and teaching courses that are relevant to the field.

I am honored to be among those invited emergency management scholars and will be presenting on the topic of ‘Teaching about Vulnerability and Mitigation: An empirical approach‘. I will be sharing how I progressed from educating federal, state and local staff in the field while conducting damage assessments during the post-hurricane Andrew recovery phase in 1992/1993, to designing and organizing training workshops in hazard mitigation, to designing and introducing two graduate-level courses in Hazard Mitigation and Vulnerability Assessment that I taught for sixteen years. I will also present on how I added other educational offerings to respond to demand at two opposite extremes, one was an offering known as ‘Developing a culture of mitigation through education‘ for K-12 schools that was recognized as an example of ‘Best Mitigation Practices’ by FEMA in 2005, and the other a continuing education program for emergency management practitioners and professionals in several fields known as the ‘Emergency Management and Hazard Mitigation Certificate Program‘. One key aspect of my talk will be how I managed to blend empirical knowledge acquired from field observation of damaged buildings, with applied research under the state of Florida funded ‘Residential Construction Mitigation Program‘, and the implementation of hundreds of actual ‘brick and mortar’ mitigation projects, into highly practical and interactive course offerings without textbooks, but with a wealth of real-life examples that students could see and study.

I am looking forward to a rewarding and exciting experience as I prepare to participate in the 1st Emergency Management Theory and Research Workshop, and the 2014 Higher Education Summit. I shall report on my experience upon my return to the home base!