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Last edited 15 Sep 2017
Engineers and hurricanes
Hurricanes are one of the most destructive forces that can hit a country. Hurricanes are large, spiraling tropical storms that can pack wind speeds of over 160 mph and unleash more than 2.4 trillion gallons of rain a day.
On September 8, 1900, the city island of Galveston, Texas was hit by the deadliest hurricane in US history where an estimated 8,000 people lost their lives. 105 years later, the country was hit again by Hurricane Katrina, which resulted in over $105 bn of damage in properties, infrastructure, and livelihood.
Because of the threats that hurricanes pose yearly, many organisations and private professionals like engineers are now creating plans for how to reduce the risk and damage from hurricanes before, during, and after their onslaught.
Before the hurricane season comes, engineers develop risk mitigation measures that reduce the frequency, intensity, scale and impact of hazards brought by the hurricane. Preparedness plans are produced which often include early warning systems that monitor and predict the occurrence of hazards, and contingency plans for effective response and recovery which can be implemented by the community.
Professional engineers are also responsible for spreading advocacy by influencing and encouraging the community and other bodies to become involved in reducing identified risk. Furthermore, engineers have the task to develop and construct infrastructure with high natural disaster resistance.
In the US, one of the government agencies that responds during natural disasters such as a hurricane is the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
The USACE has a workforce of over 37,000 civilians and active duty personnel that deliver engineering services in over 90 countries. Throughout the onslaught, they provide affected people with immediate emergency support, critical commodities and temporary emergency power, and initiate recovery efforts by assessing and restoring damaged infrastructure. During and after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the USACE team efficiently removed saltwater from subways and tunnels, and helped clear up 3.6 million cubic yards of debris from city areas.
Judging the wide scope of their role – from planning to implementation to rebuilding – it’s clear that engineers play a vital part in reducing the damage caused by hurricanes and ensuring the life and safety of the public.
Lockatong’s useful infographic at www.lockatong.com, explains more.
This article was originally published by ICE as 'How do engineers help protect communities during hurricane season?' on 1 Sept 2016.
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- Hurricane design considerations.
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- Ten years on – Lessons from the Flood on building resilience.
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