Hurricanes: Lessons Learned To Reduce Future Risk

July 11, 2005
253 Senate Russell Office Building, 10:00 am
2325 Rayburn House Office Building, 1:30 pm

Forecasters have predicted at least seven Atlantic hurricanes for the 2005 season, five of which are predicted to match the destructive force of Hurricane Ivan, which tore through the Florida panhandle in 2004. In total, an unprecedented four hurricanes struck Florida in rapid succession during the fall of 2004, and there have been more hurricanes during the past ten years than in any other ten-year period since records began in 1851. Historical records show that Atlantic hurricanes have a multi-decadal cycle of heightened activity; during the 1940s to the 1960s, the U.S. experienced an above average number of hurricanes and during the 1970s to mid-1990s, the U.S. experienced a below average number of hurricanes. Now it appears, we have entered an above average period of hurricane activity that may last for 10 to 20 years.

In light of the severity of the storms of 2004 and the predictions for the 2005 hurricane season, the Congressional Hazards Caucus sponsored two one-hour briefings to discuss how far the nation has come in addressing the risk of hurricanes, and how far we still need to go to take full advantage of current warning and mitigation procedures and technologies. During each briefing, scientists, engineers and first responders presented to congressional staff what they have learned from tracking storm movements, responding to emergencies, and surveying coastal and infrastructure damage.

John Haines from the U.S. Geological Survey explained how the USGS uses Lidar imaging to evaluate and test the vulnerability of the coastline to hurricane-induced erosion. Tim Reinhold from the Institute for Business & Home Safety spoke about the high cost of infrastructure damage and the importance and effectiveness of modern building codes. Scott Kiser and Scott Carter from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) outlined National Weather Service capabilities, showing what NOAA has done in cooperation with the Navy and NASA to provide accurate forecast information and hurricane awareness. Finally, Joe Becker and Jan Lane from the American Red Cross summarized the methods, successes, and challenges in meeting the needs of those affected by hurricanes.

By coincidence, the morning briefing took place less than 24 hours after Hurricane Dennis swept through Pensacola, FL and southern Alabama, and the speakers were able to relate their presentations to real-time events, providing updates on the status of the storm, the damage that was expected, and how that damage may have been exacerbated by the destruction caused by Hurricane Ivan 10 months earlier.


John Haines, Program Manager, U.S. Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Geology Program, Reston, VA
Coastal erosion caused by hurricanes

John Haines is a research oceanographer who manages the Marine Geology Program at the U.S. Geological Survey, and has been with the USGS Coastal and Marine Team since 1999. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, John joined the Survey as one of the initial members of the Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida. His research record includes publications on nearshore flows, the impact of water-level variations of Gulf of Mexico wetlands, remote video monitoring, and decadal-scale variability in beach morphology.

Timothy A. Reinhold, Civil Engineer, Vice President of Engineering, Institute for Business and Home Safety, Tampa, Florida
Protecting infrastructure from hurricanes: Lessons learned about the importance and effectiveness of adopting and following modern building codes

Timothy A. Reinhold is a civil engineer who has been working on building safe structures since he received his Ph D in engineering mechanics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and University in 1977. He is the Vice President of Engineering for the Institute for Business and Home Safety and he is also an adjunct professor of civil engineering at Clemson University.

Scott Kiser, Meteorologist, NOAA, National Weather Service, Tropical Cyclone Manager, Silver Spring, MD
NOAA and Hurricanes: Meeting the Challenge

Scott Kiser is a meteorologist who has been with the National Weather Service (NWS) for 30 years. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University and the University of North Texas. He has held various positions in the NWS at offices in Albuquerque, NM; Boise, ID; and Houston, TX. He is currently located at NWS Headquarters in Silver Spring, MD, where he is the tropical cyclone program manager.

Joseph C. Becker, Senior Vice President for Preparedness and Response, American Red Cross, Washington, DC
Advice from the Red Cross on how to prepare for the hurricane season (Morning briefing only)

Joseph Becker is the Senior Vice President of Preparedness and Response for the American Red Cross and has been working at the Red Cross's national headquarters since January 2004. Before coming to Washington DC he was the Executive Director of the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Jan Lane, American Red Cross, Washington, DC
Advice from the Red Cross on how to prepare for the hurricane season (Afternoon briefing only)

Jan Lane joined the American Red Cross in 1990 and has served as the Vice President of Public Policy and Strategic Partnerships for the organization since 1999. In her current position she directs outreach and partnership efforts with other organizations, and she leads the development and communication of Red Cross positions on public policy issues at the federal, state and local levels. She also oversees strategies to accomplish the Red Cross's legislative and regulatory goals in Congress, in the Executive Branch and at the state level.

Sponsored by the following members of the Hazards Caucus Alliance: 

American Geological Institute 
American Geophysical Union
American Society of Civil Engineers
American Red Cross