The 2009 Atlantic Basic hurricane season so far has been relatively quiet, but a major storm may develop at any time. Clemson University has experts on a varied array of hurricane-related topics who can help you with your coverage.

Some of our experts talk about their research in video clips. To obtain them, contact Wanda Johnson, 864-656-3038 or wj@clemson.edu.

Hurricane frequency and intensity:

Clemson University researchers have concluded that the number of hurricanes and tropical storms in the Atlantic Basin is increasing, but there is no evidence that their individual strengths are any greater than storms of the past or that the chances of a U.S. strike are up, which is contrary to what's been said by some scientists and environmentalists. Robert Lund, professor of mathematical sciences at Clemson, along with colleagues Michael Robbins and Colin Gallagher of Clemson and QiQi Lu of Mississippi State University, studied changes in the tropical cycle record in the North Atlantic between 1851 and 2008 in the first rigorous assessment of storms. Contact Lund at 864-656-0861 or lund@clemson.edu or Media Relations' Susan Polowczuk at 864-656-2061 or spolowc@clemson.edu.

Housing:

Faculty and students in architecture and landscape architecture are putting their heads together to find ways to convert shipping containers into hurricane-proof housing. Their Seed Project is supported by industry partners, including shipping container manufacturers, and seeks to use a surplus of durable shipping containers to construct housing in hurricane-ravaged parts of the Caribbean. Contact Pernille Christensen, visiting professor of landscape architecture, at 864-656-4457 or pchrist@clemson.edu or Ross Norton at 864-656-4810 or rnorton@clemson.edu in Media Relations for assistance. Watch our video about the seed project.

Wind and structural engineering testing:

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Hugo. Mitigation funds made available from FEMA as a result of Hugo led to the construction of a leading research lab at Clemson University. Today, the Wind and Structural Engineering Research (WiSER) Facility (http://www.clemson.edu/ce/pdf/wiser.pdf) is one of the nation's top laboratories for the study of wind effects on structures. Current research compares wind-tunnel data with full-scale measurements of wind loads on residential structures in suburban areas collected during recent hurricanes. For more on how building codes and structures have changed in the last 20 years, contact Scott Schiff, director of the WiSER Facility, at 864-656-0456 or schiffs@clemson.edu or Media Relations Susan Polowczuk at 864-656-2061 or spolowc@clemson.edu.

Early Response:

The timeliness of an early response in disaster mitigation, such as in the preparation for and in the aftermath of a hurricane, is critical for an effective strategy to overcome the disaster. Clemson University industrial engineer Sandra Garrett and her colleagues have proposed a new framework for coordinating the detection of events and how teams can prepare for and respond to dynamic, time-critical situations. One of the fundamental issues is the ability to identify changes that occur over time to identify and predict the characteristics of a future event, such as when and where a hurricane will hit and how large the storm will be before it reaches landfall. Given the accuracy of current meteorological predictions, Garrett’s work can be used to help decision-makers determine what actions should be taken at various points in time to mitigate possible severe consequences. This would include decisions such as how far in advance of an event local officials should encourage citizens to prepare, when an area should be evacuated and what communication should be provided. “It is critical to keep information fresh with clearly identified frequent updates about the event because when people are not given updated information, they begin to make assumptions that often are incorrect,” says Garrett. For more information, contact Garrett at 864-656-3114 or garrett@clemson.edu or Susan Polowczuk in Media Relations at 864-656-2063 or spolowc@clemson.edu.

Evacuation planning:

Evacuating hospitals and health-care facilities during Hurricane Katrina proved to be a disaster. To avoid a repeat, industrial engineer Kevin Taaffe coordinates with many coastal hospitals in Florida and South Carolina to develop model frameworks to assign limited transportation, shelter and staffing resources during a hurricane evacuation. He also investigates alternate exit or travel routes for special needs populations, which would reduce the likelihood of these groups competing with general population traffic and incurring long roadway delays. For more information, contact Taaffe at 864-656-0291 or taaffe@clemson.edu or Susan Polowczuk in Media Relations at 864-656-2063 or spolowc@clemson.edu.

Intelligent transportation systems use video cameras, traffic sensors, message signs and advisory radios to monitor and control highway traffic in real time with the aid of wired and wireless communication infrastructure. A single failure can cause a domino effect that results in chaos. Public transportation agencies have a mission to ensure that communication infrastructure not only is in place but is reliable during such extreme weather conditions as hurricanes and floods to manage evacuations in real time and coordinate with other agencies. To meet this requirement, new-generation communication alternatives could be the answer to keeping systems up and running efficiently without the risk of failure during emergencies. For more information, contact Ronnie Chowdhury at 864-656-3313 or mac@clemson.edu or Susan Polowczuk in Media Relations at 864-656-2063 or spolowc@clemson.edu.

Animal Care:

Humans aren’t the only ones in need of shelter and emergency services when hurricanes hit. Cats and dogs, along with farm livestock, require care and recovery actions. Planning, tracking and responding to animal issues, ranging from shelter to carcass cleanup is Charlotte Krugler’s job. She is the veterinarian at the Clemson Livestock and Poultry Health unit in Columbia, S.C., who oversees the state response to natural disasters. Krugler leads efforts to find kennels and temporary housing sites, so people have a place to leave their pets in a safe place. She can provide information about animal care during hurricanes. Contact Krugler at 803-788-2260, ext. 286, 843-709-2472 or ckrugle@clemson.edu or contact Peter Kent at 864-557-3491 or pkent@clemson.edu.

Electricity:

Hurricanes and other types of bad weather can wreak havoc with the electrical grid. Taufiquar Khan and Irina Viktorova, professors in mathematical sciences at Clemson, are developing mathematical models of complex power distribution networks to help improve electrical grid efficiency and service. The challenge to accomplish this involves accurate metering at the different points of consumption and reliable communications between all electric meters and the local electric utility. They say “smart meters” and “advanced metering infrastructure” technologies could potentially provide a solution for this problem. As a result, with the ability to monitor the entire power grid in real time, the utility can ensure uninterrupted service, improve distribution efficiency, save energy and reduce operational costs. The research effort is funded by Itron Inc., a leading technology provider and critical source of knowledge to the global energy and water industries. Contact Khan at 864-656-3257 or khan@clemson.edu or Viktorova at 864-656-6906 or iviktor@clemson.edu or Susan Polowczuk in Media Relations at 864-656-2063 or spolowc@clemson.edu.

Public policy:

Clemson structural engineer professor Scott Schiff says coastal communities from Texas through Massachusetts are at risk for catastrophic hurricane events. He warns, “We must learn to manage risks by reducing the vulnerability of structures and improving the performance of homes, shelters, hospitals and critical facilities.” Through the Clemson Wind and Structural Engineering Research Facility (http://www.clemson.edu/ce/pdf/wiser.pdf), Schiff conducts fundamental research into these areas in an effort to change public-policy approaches to dealing with hurricanes. Contact Scott Schiff at 864-656-0456 or schiffs@clemson.edu or Media Relations' Susan Polowczuk at 864-656-2061 or spolowc@clemson.edu.

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink:

Clemson University environmental toxicologist John Rodgers is a nationally known expert on wetlands and toxic effluent in waterways. He has constructed numerous artificial wetlands for industries that produce water pollution that must be cleaned up. One of his projects was just west of New Orleans: a Shell Oil refinery. Rodgers has met with the EPA and other federal officials to discuss the problems of toxic chemicals in floodwaters. The Savannah River Site has one of Rodger's largest artificial wetlands and shows how to build new wetlands to protect coastlines and reclaim polluted waterways. Contact Rodgers (864-656-0492, 864-646-2960 or 864-650-0210) jrodger@clemson.edu or contact Peter Kent at 864-557-3491 or pkent@clemson.edu for assistance.

Too much saltwater is a bad thing:

Coastal wetland forests can stand up to hurricane-strength winds, but storm surges can drown them in saltwater. Clemson University researchers are looking at data to learn about the effects of excess saltwater on coastal ecosystems. For more information, contact forestry scientist William Conner at 843-546-6323 or wconner@clemson.edu or contact Peter Kent at 864-557-3491 or pkent@clemson.edu for assistance.

Pesty issues:

Hurricanes and similar events, including tornadoes, high winds and floods, can wreak havoc on agricultural operations. In addition to the disastrous effects, severe weather events can cause both dollar loss and environmental pollution from agricultural chemicals. Fertilizers, pesticides, solvents, fuels and other agricultural chemicals can be lost, contaminating the surrounding environment and environments downstream of storage and use areas. For more information, contact Bob Bellinger, extension pesticide coordinator at 864-656-5042 or bbllngr@clemson.edu or contact Peter Kent at 864-557-3491 or pkent@clemson.edu for assistance.

Opportunities can come from the rubble of natural disaster:

Clemson professor Umit Yilmaz took his planning and landscape architecture students to a town near San Salvador that was destroyed when an earthquake rocked El Salvador in 2001. He and his students devised a practical plan for the town leaders in their bid to rebuild the town on limited resources. Contact Yilmaz at 864-656-7349 or uyilmaz@clemson.edu to find out how some of the Gulf Coast areas may look for opportunity among the ruins. Contact Media Relations' Ross Norton at 864-656-2061 or rnorton@clemson.edu for assistance.

Lessons learned:

Are the communities along the Eastern Seaboard better suited to withstand a monster hurricane? Were lessons learned during Hugo's 1989 sprint eventually forgotten? Planning and landscape architecture associate professor Grant Cunningham studies coastal development, resource policy and community development. Contact Cunningham at 864-656-4456 or cunninm@clemson.edu or contact Media Relations' Ross Norton at 864-656-2061 or rnorton@clemson.edu.

Communication is key to recovery of the tourism industry:

Clemson University research has found that open communication is key to attracting potential tourists after a disaster. According to a study led by professor of parks, recreation and tourism management Sheila Backman, a little truth can go a long way. For more information on how to build a communications plan aimed at recovering tourism, contact Backman at 864-656-5236 or back@clemson.edu or for assistance contact Media Relations' Ross Norton at 864-656-2061 or rnorton@clemson.edu.

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Editors, news directors: Clemson University has studios and uplink capabilities for broadcast interviews. Contact Wanda Johnson at 864-656-3038 or wj@clemson.edu for information.