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NEWS RELEASE

Office of External Communications

Houston, TX 77204-5017 Fax: 713.743.8199

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 5, 2007

Contact: Lisa Merkl
713.743.8192 (office)
713.605.1757 (pager)
lkmerkl@uh.edu

BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES: HURRICANE TIP SHEET FROM UH

The likelihood of above-normal hurricane activity this year is 75 percent, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). National Weather Service forecasters are predicting 13 to 17 tropical storms, with seven to 10 of them becoming hurricanes. As you consider stories for your coverage of this year’s hurricanes and tropical storms, be prepared with these resources from the University of Houston representing experts across various fields. For more information, or if you are unable to reach a professor, give us a call at 713-743-8192.

WORTH HIS SALT: STORM CHASER TACKLES HURRICANES
James Lawrence, UH associate professor of geosciences, has developed an innovative salt-detection device to measure the salt content of rain while flying through tropical storms and hurricanes. Lawrence’s research is aimed at understanding how extra heat derived from sea spray enhances the development of the dangerous Category 3 to 5 hurricanes. The instrument was developed for use on the NOAA’s P3 research aircraft and, space permitting, will be flown this coming hurricane season. The instrument has been tested in the wind tunnel facility at Texas A&M University and also can be mounted on his pickup truck to study the salt content of tropical storms and minimal hurricanes. For more information, Lawrence can be reached at 713-743-3410 or jlawrence@uh.edu.

A MODEL PLAN FOR EVACUATION
Industrial engineers at UH are working on evacuation models for Houston. Professors Tiravat Assavapokee and Maher Lahmar are developing a predictive evacuation model that uses road capacity, traffic conditions and results from flooding models to identify zip-code-based evacuation routes and schedules for the public. Professor Ali Kamrani is developing a traffic-optimization model that takes real-time traffic data to provide recommendations to officers directing an evacuation. Assavapokee can be reached at 713-743-4127 or tassavapokee@uh.edu, Lahmar can be reached at 713-743-4193 or mlahmar@uh.edu and Kamrani can be reached at 713-743-4192 or akamrani@uh.edu. Faculty from the Department of Industrial Engineering also are working on forming a university-wide interdisciplinary research group to focus on disaster mitigation, management and recovery.

GIVE ME SHELTER
A hurricane is coming, and you’ve decided to leave town. Where do you go, and what is the role of a hotel during this time of crisis? John Bowen, dean of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, is an expert in hotel marketing and available to explain how the hotel community works together to help evacuees. During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, he collaborated with the president of the Houston Hotel and Lodging Association of Greater Houston to provide resources for people in need of lodging. Bowen can answer questions ranging from reservations to price gouging and can be reached at 713-743-0209 or jbowen@uh.edu.

ENGINEERING BETTER STRUCTURAL OUTCOMES AFTER HURRICANES
Cumaraswamy Vipulanandan, chair of civil and environmental engineering, deals with the structural damages to bridges and other concrete structures due to long exposures to water and other corrosives. In his lab, he also is developing chemicals to clean toxic waste sites. Vipulanandan can be reached at 713-743-4278 or cvipulanandan@uh.edu. Bill Dupre, associate professor of geosciences at UH, also can address large oil spills resulting from the erosion and rupture of pipelines and can be reached at 713-743-3425 or wdupre@uh.edu.

RECOUPING YOUR LOSSES
“It’s important to protect property from further damage, but those affected must also preserve the damages,” says Dan Jones, who has extensive experience in insurance and expertise in risk management. Jones is an executive professor in the Bauer College of Business, and he teaches classes in international risk and insurance, risk management, insurance operations and regulations, and energy insurance and risk management. Jones can be reached at djones@uh.edu.

A SISYPHEAN CHALLENGE: REPLENISHING GALVESTON’S BEACHES
Donald Van Nieuwenhuise, director of professional geoscience programs at UH, says that while beach replenishment is touted to bring in tourist dollars, it is a very short-term solution to protect Galveston from hurricanes. Tropical storm Claudette made landfall at Matagorda Island July 15, 2003. Less than a month prior to that, a replenishment project south of the Galveston Sea Wall was completed at the price of about $3 million. Estimates made days after mere tropical storm Claudette landed hundreds of miles to the south suggested about one-third of the volume of that sand replenishment was removed. With Galveston only 18 to 20 feet above sea level at its highest points, a Category 5 hurricane would likely exceed that elevation and remove all recent beach replenishment sands. Van Nieuwenhuise can be reached at 713-743-3423 or dvnieuwe@mail.uh.edu.

HEALTH LAW AND ORDER
The liabilities of volunteer physicians and nurses and quarantines in emergency shelters are among some of the many legal issues in health care that Richard Saver can discuss. He is an assistant professor of law and affiliated with the Health, Law and Policy Institute. Saver can be reached at 713-743-2263 or rsaver@central.uh.edu.

TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT
Food safety when the power goes out is a very real problem during hurricanes and tropical storms. Nancy Graves, an associate professor and a registered dietician, and Jay Neal, a lecturer and expert on food safety, can answer questions about how long food can go before spoiling without refrigeration and what steps can be taken to protect food in your freezer in the event of an extended power outage. Graves can be reached at 713-743-2426 or nsgraves@central.uh.edu. Neal can be reached at 713-743-1480 or jneal@central.uh.edu.

HURRICANE ENGINES REVVING UP WITH MORE HEAT
In trying to predict quantity and intensity of hurricanes this year, Donald Van Nieuwenhuise, director of professional geoscience programs at UH, says the heat engine that drives hurricanes is heating up from global warming, and as the Atlantic and Gulf warm up the hurricane engine will have more power. What the atmosphere does with that extra power, he says, requires complex atmospheric models to predict the number and intensity of hurricanes that will occur in the Atlantic and Gulf regions this year or any given year. Van Nieuwenhuise says last year’s performance of the heat engine suggests his caution was well founded. Even though the heat engine was pumped up, it didn’t deliver all of that excess power as hurricanes because the atmosphere has more than one way to dissipate tropical energy and move it to higher latitudes. Van Nieuwenhuise can be reached at 713-743-3423 or dvnieuwe@mail.uh.edu.

WHAT LIES BENEATH?
Flood waters often carry an assortment of unpleasant surprises – from toxins to creepy crawlers. Knowledgeable about many of the murky secrets hidden in flood water, UH’s team of civil and environmental engineers can shed light on what may lay deep within and how to deal with it. Flooding experts can discuss the environmental effects, dealing with contaminated water and cleaning the drinking water, as well as address possible toxins in the water and the natural recovery of the environment from contamination. For more information, contact Lisa Merkl at 713-743-8192 or lkmerkl@uh.edu to be connected with the appropriate expert.

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