NCEM-ECU Annual Hurricane Workshop

May 22, 2013

The Fourth Annual NCEM-ECU Hurricane Workshop
May 22, 2013

The North Carolina Division of Emergency Management in collaboration with East Carolina University's Center for Natural Hazards Research held a Hurricane Workshop on May 22, 2013 at the Murphy Center in Greenville, NC. Over 180 emergency managers, meteorologists, emergency responders and university researchers gathered to learn about new policies and procedures for social media, planning and emergency response, modeling storm surge and planning for future flooding emergencies and the experiences from managing Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast.

Workshop Summary in a pdf
Workshop Video and PowerPoint slide presentations:

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Mike Sprayberry, Director, North Carolina Division of Emergency Management   
Dr. Ron Mitchelson, Interim Vice Chancellor, Research and Graduate Studies, ECU     
Dr. Jamie Kruse, Director, Center for Natural Hazards Research, ECU

Panel– Tools for Risk and Emergency Communication

Social Media Management Systems (not included in video)
Dr. Donna Kain, Department of English, ECU
  Dr. Kain introduced the first panel theme of communication and  introduced the speakers. Her presentation, Social Media Management Systems (not included in the video), overviews the tools that social media managers can use on multiple platforms and apps. She demonstrates the software managers Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.

City of Greenville’s Social Media in times of emergencies
Steve Hawley, Public Information Officer, City of Greenville      
  Mr. Hawley described some of his experience with Hurricanes in the past, such as Hurricane Floyd and his recent experience managing social media messages for the City of Greenville during Hurricane Irene. They use multiple social media platforms for both city information and alerts. One is used just for emergency notifications. Hawley highlighted the importance of both regular posting and professionalism in the management of social media. He relayed a story about how a photograph posted on the site inadvertently caused controversy and highlighted their need for a social media policy.

Report on Communication Changing Conditions at the Coast Workshops (no slide presentation)
Gloria Putnam, Coastal Resources and Communities Specialist, NC Sea Grant      
Ms. Putnam shared the goals and purposes of North Carolina Sea Grant. She described how the they have become more involved with issues of sea level rise and climate change. She noted that we will see changes in the environment long before we see inundation in North Carolina, but that this will affect people. They wanted to improve the way that they communicated about sea level rise and to that end they developed a working group to better identify risk and adaptation strategies. A couple of workshops the previous month brought together communicators include some people from emergency management, but more involvement is desired. She encouraged anyone interested in joining the working group to contact her for more information.

Introducing the North Carolina Coastal Atlas
Dr. Tom Allen, Department of Geography, ECU

Dr. Allen described the development of a new project that emerged from the applied approach to tackling research questions used by the former RENCI center at ECU. The North Carolina Coastal Atlas project is designed to make research in the coastal area more accessible to regional and local users within the state. The on-line mapping portal has followed successful projects in other states such as Oregon and Maryland. Many of the new coastal atlases are being developed by federal agencies, but these lack information that is useful at the local level. The NC Coastal Atlas will provide a hyper-local place-based perspective. Past work has resulted in storm surge awareness tools that has allowed the visualization of the impact of a Category 3 storm on the Outer Banks and a map of potential inundation due to sea level rise for the Town of Plymouth. The NC Coastal Atlas will expand on these past projects. There will be tools for uploading, downloading and printing maps. The first maps they have developed focus on sea level rise and coastal shorelines. Coarse sea level rise maps paired with the location of local infrastructure can assist planning and decision-making. Dr Allen asked “What would be useful for emergency managers and responders? What needs do you have that are not being met?” and invited participants to explore the atlas at computers set up in the back of the room.       

Panel-Modeling and Planning for Storm Surge

CERA-Atlantic Storm Surge Web Page
Jessica Losego, Research Meteorologist, UNC Institute for the Environment           
Jessica Losego discussed the CERA (Coastal Emergency Risk Assessment)-Atlantic portal that is part of the DHS Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence housed at UNC Chapel Hill. She showed examples of the five-day forecasts that are generated based on ADCIRC coastal circulation and storm surge models that produce deterministic wave and surge forecasts. The layers of the map include storm track, water height, waves, wind speed and gauge stations located on a Google map. The format allows a user to click on any part of the map and find a legend with corresponding colors that indicate inundation and how a particular area will be affected. While this website has been available for several years, recent improvements have been made in response to feedback from emergency managers. They found that emergency managers need information 72 hours before landfall and they need a best guess for decision-making. The onset of tropical force wind is important to emergency managers and although there are many ways to get the hurricane track, it is hard to get information about river flooding and connect that to surge. New changes include color scale changes and more intuitive page design.

The Pursuit of Risk
John Dorman, Director, North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program
Mr. Dorman discussed planning for resilience in our communities in North Carolina and their new data center that is working toward determining the probability and impact of future storms. They would like to get a real time common operating system which would include stream gauges and wind gauges to give real time information for decision-making. The office has collected statewide building footprints and used the latest imagery to determine flood levels. The first floor elevations for almost all of the building has been determined and they know everything that would be flooded up to 16 feet. Color coding shows which roads will be flooded and which ones will be impassable. All of the data is in the Enterprise Risk database which can be accesses through FRIS and iRisk, the multiple hazards database. This will assist the development of hazards mitigation plans. Real-time data is in ReadyNC. After Hurricane Irene, they were able to install seven new coastal gauges. Using gauge data and map libraries, along with data from Hurricane Irene, they are now able to better predict hotspot where the most damage is likely to occur.

Planning for Resilience in Coastal Louisiana
Dr. Traci Birch, Department of Geography, ECU
Dr. Birch spoke about coastal resilience in Louisiana which is an area particularly vulnerable to coastal land loss due to sea level rise. Other hazards include oil spills which were not view as a problem until recently. Many of the communities are built on a delta and over an 80 year time the shape of the state has changed because they lose about one football field size area of marshland every 45 minutes. In the last 25 years, the area has been hit with 16 named storms, including 4 out of 5 of the costliest (before Sandy). Each of these events has increased the loss of land. Oil spills increase the land loss since wetland erode at a greater rate when oiled, due to oil or dispersants. Since 25% of oil and gas moves through the state, before 2010 more than every other coastal state combined, vulnerability for land loss is high. Over the last 8 years there has been more resilience planning activity. While there is no official policy, the transportation department is using sea level rise maps to plan. They are also trying to restore wetlands as quickly as possible. An authority was created to administer and manage resilience planning programs. It was a unique opportunity to do master plans and determine priories for the future. Competitive grants drove the local process, but over the last 8 years there is a growing realization that they need to plan and resilience is past of the lexicon. Lessons learned were that equity is important, implementation is difficult, having priories identified in advance moves the process forward, educational resources are needed and each process facilitates the next.

Keynote Speaker


USCG Sector New York- Hurricane Sandy Response and Recovery in New York and New Jersey
Commander Linda Sturgis, Chief of Emergency Prevention, Coast Guard Sector, New York
Keynote speaker Linda Sturgis described the impact that Hurricane Sandy had on the coast of New York and Northern New Jersey, an area in which she was responsible for safety, transportation and navigation. The effects are still being felt. The statue of Liberty is not open yet, not because the monument was damaged, but due to damage to the docking facilities on the Island. Ellis Island was heavily damaged including many archives stored there. The weather buoys measured water height at 9 feet and 10 feet and then suddenly off the scale. Some people said there was 42 foot wave and they are probably right, but it was not measured. What affected people most, Sturgis said, was shipping, especially petro-chemical products because the anchorages in New York serve a large region and have the second largest refinery in the country, operating since 1905. The entire system was disrupted, including areas currently being dredged to accommodate larger ships. Widespread power outages effected millions of people. In lower Manhattan, many of the neighborhoods in which first responders live were hit hard. Many transportation routes were disabled for days. One of the biggest problems was control systems. When the flooding came in, it was difficult to control anything. The whole energy grid was flooded which affected the whole North East supply chain. One of the important lessons learned was that emergency personnel should know their energy supply chain and what happens if it is impacted by a storm. Sturgis said that you should always have a back-up plan and networking is important so that you know who to call. They had to manage the emotional impact and know that recovery is a long process. She said the Red Cross did a phenomenal job. The NOAA Navigation Response Team were the unsung hero. They predicted the storm surge and surveyed 75% of the channel so that recovery operations could travel in and out. They had 1400 buoys and many of them were destroyed. They had to get them restored. There was a lot of hazardous materials remediation to address containers that went all the way across the water onto land. Sturgis had to work with media outlets, which she found interesting, and deal with marine port security since that became an issue after the storm. Commander Sturgis advised to not let the command and control construct come in the way of your recovery operation. Recommendations are welcome, but let the people in the field make decisions and work to the system. She said, “ It is all about the relationship and be flexible about getting it done.”

Panel-Hurricane Sandy


What is EMAC?
Darlene Johnson, Deputy Operations Chief/EOC Manager for NCEM
Ms. Johnson overviewed the EMAC process for providing mutual aid to other states during an event. She said that if first responders are sent on a mission to work in another state during an emergency, they are able to function and should be paid in the same way as if they are in their home state. This includes liability protections. She described the reimbursement and other procedures that are involved in the process including forms and contacts.

Reflections on Sandy: Understanding What Happened and Where Do we Go From Here?
Gary Szatkowski, Meteorologist-in-Charge, National Weather Center,Philadelphia/Mount Holly, NJ Forecast Office 
Mr. Szatkowski described the experience of Hurricane Sandy from the point of view of forecast meteorologists working in New Jersey area hit by the storm. His office in Mount Holly began issuing warnings forty hours before the storm and knew that coastal flooding was the biggest threat. They anticipated record breaking water heights and made a personal plea to people to be prepared by showing photographs of storm damage from the hurricane in 1902 that devastated the area. Sandy hit at high tide with a storm tide of 12-15 feet. Mr. Szatkowski said that the governors of New Jersey and Delaware issued the evacuation orders when they needed to and did a great job in the run up to the storm. The New Jersey governor ordered a mandatory evacuation, but the New York mayor did not. In extreme events, past experience fails to inform good decisions. For example, the New Jersey railway made the mistake of putting trains in an area that did not flood in past hurricanes, but this time lost 400 million dollars in equipment. Some people did not evacuate because they thought Hurricane Irene the year before was less intense than anticipated. In a study, researchers found that 76% of people said that they “experienced” a hurricane, but only 37% reported suffering damage from Hurricane Irene. Mr. Szatkowski observed if you did not experience damage or other problems, you did not really experience the hurricane. Climate change is also expected to make future severe weather events worse. The trend in sea level rise is acceleration, which will raise storm tide levels. It is very difficult to confront this problem because it is long term and outside personal experience. Looking ahead– even though forecasting has gotten better and is expected to improve, it is difficult to get people to understand the impact of a hurricane.

Hurricane Sandy Experience (no slide presentation)
Craig Smith, Greensboro Fire Department                          
Mr. Smith described the experience of the swift water rescue team from Greensboro Fire Department that was deployed to Crisfield, Maryland during Hurricane Sandy. The unit tries to be self-sufficient and can live out of their trailer for three days. They encountered teams that deployed before the hurricane that were busier than their team. They took 6 people up to Maryland and 14 people to Hyde County in 2011 for Hurricane Irene. 


2013 Hurricane Season ForecastGary Szatkowski, National Weather Service
Mr. Szatkowski described the 2012 hurricane season. In 2012 there were 19 named storms, 10 reached hurricane strength and 2 were major hurricanes. This exceeded the average number. This year is likely to exceed last year because the ACE, Accumulated Cyclone Energy is estimated to be higher than last year. The forecast has not been released from the Hurricane Center yet, but it can be expect to be an above average active season. Mr. Szatkowski cautioned that the U. S. is experiencing the longest period without a major hurricane striking land based on long term averages. Chances are that we can expect a major hurricane before long.

Media Coverage