SAVANNAH (10-Nov-08) - The threat of hurricanes is not taken lightly by residents of the Gulf and East Coasts, nor by the engineers responsible for developing and maintaining coastal landforms and infrastructure. Indeed, if any positive can be found in the devastation wrought by hurricanes and tropical storms, it is the resulting improvement in preparedness - from post-disaster emergency response to more stringent building codes and increased environmental protection.
Georgia Tech Savannah professor Dr. Paul Work recently returned from a field investigation in Galveston, Texas, serving as a member of a disaster reconnaissance team to examine, document and report on the effects of Hurricane Ike for an institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
"Galveston is an interesting case study," said Work. "A major hurricane in 1900 killed thousands - six thousand is the number most commonly cited - and led to the construction of a famous seawall and the addition of enough fill material to raise a large portion of the island, both as protective measures. One of our observations was that much of the public infrastructure - roads, ferry terminals, public buildings, the seawall - appeared to do reasonably well, at least structurally, although one important bridge on the Bolivar Peninsula was reduced to one lane and nearly rendered impassable. But many homes were flooded and structurally damaged. The mountains of sheet rock fragments and ruined appliances were disheartening, especially to my friend who was with us who lived through Hurricane Katrina."
Organized by the Coasts, Oceans, Ports and Rivers Institute (COPRI), the two-phased investigation will result in a "Lessons Learned" monograph to assist in future hurricane preparation efforts.
Galveston: Bolivar Peninsula
The initial phase of the investigation placed one team of researchers east of Galveston Bay to Sabine, and the second team west of Galveston bay to Surfside Beach to focus on beaches and infrastructure.
"Quite a few houses on the Bolivar Peninsula were simply obliterated - I can't think of a more descriptive term for it," said Work. "Even the debris was completely washed away. We saw many different types of damage, from wind, storm surge, waves, scour and erosion. And fire. I kept wishing that I could have been above it all, seeing the storm unfold. It would be sad to see it, but also fascinating, for someone who works in coastal engineering."
Phase I team:
Billy Edge, Texas A&M - Team Leader
Spencer Rogers, North Carolina Sea Grant - Team Leader
Robert G. Dean, University of Florida
James Kaihatu, Texas A&M
Lesley Ewing, California Coastal Commission
Mandy Loeffler, Moffatt & Nichol, Houston
Margery Overton, North Carolina State University
Kojiro Suzuki, Port and Airport Research Institute, Japan
Paul Work, Georgia Tech
Gary Gregory, Gregory Geotechnical, Stillwater, OK - ASCE Geo Institute Liaison
Don Stauble, USACE/ERDC/CHL, Vicksburg, MS - USACE Liaison
Jeffrey Waters, USACE/ERDC/CHL, Vicksburg, MS - USACE Liaison
Phase II of the project is tentatively scheduled for the week of October 13; however, access to the Port of Galveston and the Port of Orange, where the bulk of the surge damage is expected, has not been secured. (The Ports of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Texas City report minor damage, mostly from wind.) This team will be led by Steve Curtis, Tetra Tech, and focus on ports, harbors and marine assessment.