Hurricane conference planned for May 24-26
(Apr. 25, 2000)
With another season of swirling storm systems predicted for the Caribbean by late summer, eastern North Carolina has begun to look for new ways to reduce the destruction from violent weather that might be headed its way. A three-day conference, "In the Aftermath of Hurricane Floyd: Recovery In the Coastal Plain," will be held at East Carolina University in Greenville on May 24 - 26.
The goal of the conference is to develop plans and actions that can soften the blow from storms like 1999's Hurricane Floyd that produced extensive wind and water damage, especially in the state's low-lying inland areas.
John Maiolo, an ECU sociologist and the conference committee's chairperson, said this program is different from meetings that focus on how to respond to a crisis. "Ours will look at how we should begin to prepare so that the next time something like this happens, the damages will be less severe and the recovery process will be less painful," said Maiolo.
The conference sessions will be held on the university's campus in Mendenhall Student Center and will include workshop sessions and presentations by national and state scientists and other experts who deal with public policy, weather and natural disasters.
Featured speakers include: Robert Sheets, former director of the National Hurricane Center and a hurricane consultant for ABC News; Rutherford Platt, a University of Massachusetts professor who studies public policy and natural disasters; Dennis Mileti, Director of the Hazard Mitigation Center at the University of Colorado; and David Godschalk, a regional planning consultant at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who studies ways to make communities more resilient to extreme natural events.
Other speakers will offer information about the effects of storms on the region, the recovery efforts from last year's floods and how storms evolve and create havoc for coastal and inland residents. Maiolo said the focus will be on mitigation, or how to soften the blow from future storms.
"We don't want to think only about recovery because you cannot recover intelligently unless you do so within the context of mitigation and smart growth that is sensitive to the needs of the stakeholders," said Maiolo.
He said it is very important for the conference to reach out and attract the farmers and other people who live in the flood plain areas. These people, he explained, will be important in helping develop the ideas on how best to rebuild. The issues under discussion include things such as how to sustain an agricultural economy that doesn't pollute everything around it and how to provide a coastal zone for recreation that doesn't create a problem every time the wind blows or the water rises.
"All of these kinds of things require people coming together and understanding what has to be done in the context of what other people's needs are," said Maiolo. "My vision is to get the people together, not so much to provide definitive answers, but to raise important questions," he said.
A native of Williamsport, Pa., Maiolo has been raising social policy issues in eastern North Carolina for 25 years. His background is in social policy and when he arrived at ECU he became involved in social policies related to the coastal zone and marine resources. He has shifted his interest over the years to coastal development, and now to extreme weather issues.
In addition to the conference, he and his colleagues are working on a series of hurricane studies about how people along the coast react to hurricanes. They expect to do a similar study with people in the inland counties. He is a 1960 graduate of Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa. He completed his master's and doctorate degrees at Penn State.
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