Science-based zoning and building standards has helped mitigate earthquake losses and the same can be done for hurricanes, suggests the director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in a new science feature posted on its website.
“USGS science has been instrumental in helping communities use zoning and building standards to mitigate earthquake losses and in the prediction of volcanic activity to keep people and property out of harm’s way,” Marcia McNutt notes in the feature. “I have every reason to expect that a focus on science related to hurricanes will have a similar return on investment,” McNutt adds.
Hurricane Sandy – which destroyed or severely damaged ocean-front homes, among other places, on Fire Island, New York – clearly illustrates the need for greater resiliency to coastal hazards, the feature notes. More than half of the population in the United States lives within 50 miles of a coast and that number is increasing, it adds.
Data downloaded from USGS tide gages that had been placed along the Connecticut coastline prior to the landfall of Hurricane Sandy “has greatly aided Connecticut in determining the return frequency for a hurricane like Sandy and also confirmed that Sandy was a record-breaking storm for much of the coastline,” Douglas Glowacki, emergency management program specialist for the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, is quoted as saying. “This data will help local planners and architects during the rebuilding process to mitigate losses from future storm events.”
The feature notes that by using observations of beach changes and models of waves and storm surge, scientists can predict how the coast will respond to hurricanes and can identify vulnerable areas.
Moving forward, USGS science is positioned to help answer a number of questions, including those relating to what locations along the coast are forecasted to be the most vulnerable to future hurricanes, and the chemical and microbial contaminant impacts.
Notes McNutt, “Perhaps, with the help of some compelling science, Hurricane Sandy will be another catalyst for helping coastal residents in hurricane country learn how to live more safely near the ocean.”