Texas Tech Hurricane, Ecotoxicology Experts Available as Two Weather Systems Threaten Gulf

Wind scientists, ecotoxicologist and economist discuss damage, safety and oil spill.

As two ominous weather systems brew in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening to form into the season’s first hurricanes and further complicate problems with the oil spill, several Texas Tech University experts can discuss how these storms may impact the United States. One storm, off the coast of Honduras, has a 70 percent chance of becoming a hurricane within the next 48 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center. Researchers with extensive experience researching hurricanes such as Rita, Katrina and Ike, and can speak as experts about various aspects of these devastating storms. Two other experts can discuss the economic impact and, the impact of the oil spill should a hurricane make landfall. All the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico needs to go from bad to unprecedented environmental disaster is an early hurricane season. As oil continues to flow from the exploded Deepwater Horizon oil rig, a hurricane now can force escaped oil into wetland habitats and populated areas causing huge problems for wildlife and humans. Ron Kendall is director of The Institute of Environmental and Human Health. He can discuss the toxic effects of oil on wildlife and human health. He was a part of the assessment for the Exxon Valdez as well as other oil spills and contamination events. Kendall can be reached at (806) 885-4567, (806) 786-4480, or ron.kendall@tiehh.ttu.edu. John L. Schroeder, associate professor of atmospheric science, visited affected areas after both hurricanes Rita and Katrina to deploy instrumented towers that gather high-resolution storm data at a time when most conventional observation systems fail. Schroeder can offer insight into how hurricanes develop, move and react to various meteorological elements. He is an expert on hurricane winds and has been actively intercepting hurricanes since 1998. Schroeder can be reached at (806) 742-2813 or john.schroeder@ttu.edu. Bradley Ewing, professor of operations management in the Rawls College of Business, has studied the economic impact of hurricanes and tornadoes for more than 12 years. He can speak to the impact of hurricanes and tornadoes in cities such as Oklahoma City, Corpus Christi, Wilmington, N.C., Miami, and Nashville, Tenn. Ewing can be reached at (806) 742-3939 or bradley.ewing@ttu.edu. Daan Liang, assistant professor of construction engineering technology, investigated building damages caused by Hurricane Katrina using satellite images and aerial photos along with ground survey results. Liang has studied how the construction of buildings affects their vulnerability against severe windstorms with various probability models. Recently, his research is focused on the advancement of remote sensing technology in documenting and assessing wind damages to residential structures. Liang can be reached at (806) 742-3538 or daan.liang@ttu.edu. Larry Tanner, research associate, completed a six-month investigation working with the FEMA mitigation assessment team on the wind damage to residential structures from Hurricane Ike in Texas and Louisiana. He was also a member of the FEMA mitigation assessment team that studied Hurricane Katrina. He led a team that recorded wind and water damage along the coastline in Louisiana and Mississippi. Much of the damage done by Katrina, he said, resulted from structures being built below the base flood elevation – or the elevation that flood waters will rise to during a 100-year storm event (meaning the storm only has a 1 percent chance of happening in a year). Tanner can be reached at (806) 742-3476 ext. 336, or larry.tanner@ttu.edu. Ernst Kiesling, professor of civil engineering and executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association, recommends that homeowners who live above the flood plane in hurricane-prone areas buy a storm shelter for their home. As was seen in Houston preceding Hurricane Rita, evacuations often can put immense strain on traffic corridors, leading to traffic jams and – in the case of Houston – fatalities. By utilizing in-home shelters, some families who are not required to evacuate can remain where they are and ease the traffic flow. However, Kiesling urges buyers to look for a seal of the National Storm Shelter Association when they buy a safe room for their home, because not all shelters are verified to be fully compliant with current standards for storm shelters and to provide full protection from extreme winds. Kiesling has more than 30 years of experience in the design, standards-writing and quality control of storm shelters. He can be reached at (806) 742-3476, ext. 335 or ernst.kiesling@ttu.edu.