UH Experts Have Practical Advice, Noteworthy Research On 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 (UH). Representing experts across various fields, these sources have expertise in an array of topics related to storms – before, during and after. If you are unable to reach a professor, call 713-743-8192.

DRIVING RAIN
It’s never safe to drive during the storm, but for some, staying put is not an option. Industrial engineering professor Gino Lim is testing a program this hurricane season that will allow emergency crews to use laptops and smart phones to locate the flooded streets, allowing them to safely maneuver around them during emergency calls. For more information on his project, visit http://e2map.egr.uh.edu/?cat=9. Reach Lim at 713-743-4194 or ginolim@uh.edu.

A SOLAR-POWERED ALTERNATIVE WHEN POWER GOES OUT
Seamus “Shay” Curran, director of UH’s Institute for NanoEnergy, has developed a portable solar-powered generator that can be stored in a garage. When the power goes out, the unit can be pulled out, the solar panels unfurled and power is generated. Unlike a diesel generator, it is quiet and emissions-free. To learn more about this innovative technology and see a demonstration of the prototype, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-POIkdh_I8. Reach Curran at 713-743-3565 or sacurran@uh.edu.

FOOD AND WATER SAFETY WHEN POWER IS OUT
After the storm, how long can food stay fresh when the power is out? What can you do to protect food in your freezer? Jay Neal and Nancy Graves, both professors with the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, can answer questions about food and water safety, as well as discuss planning nutritious meals with what’s in the pantry, in the event of an extended power outage. Reach Graves at 713-743-2426 or nsgraves@central.uh.edu and Neal at 713-743-2652 or jneal@central.uh.edu.

PLANNING AND DESIGN FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS
Thomas Colbert, an associate professor with the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, is a practicing architect and planner and has expertise in infrastructure design and coastal planning for hurricane mitigation. His recent work deals with the preparation and evaluation of land-use planning and architectural responses to the threat of extreme weather events impacting the upper Texas Gulf Coast. As part of the research team at the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center, his work anticipates fundamental transformations of the upper Texas Gulf Coast and the development of regional architecture and urbanism based on the requirements imposed by severe weather events, sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. Reach him at colbert@Central.UH.EDU or 713-742-2380.

LEGAL MATTERS ASSOCIATED WITH STORMS
Dean Richard Alderman with the UH Law Center can discuss topics such as price gouging before hurricanes and consumer complaints about repairs, landlords, insurance issues and other legal matters involving damage to homes, trees and businesses in the aftermath of a storm. Reach him at 713-743-2165 or ralderman@central.uh.edu.

IDENTIFYING EVIDENCE OF PAST HURRICANES THROUGH ANCIENT CLIMATE RECORDS
Don Van Nieuwenhuise is director of the Professional Geoscience Programs at UH. His team is using multiple sources of data to develop a fingerprint to identify known hurricane events, which will allow identification of subtle hurricane deposits to determine accurate climate cycles before 1850. A recently completed study used high-tech sediment analysis and microfossils to identify hurricanes in Laguna Madre sediments from an unnamed hurricane in 1933, Hurricane Beulah (1967) and Hurricane Allen (1980). Reach him at 713-743-3423 or donvann@uh.edu.

SHELTER FROM THE STORM
In times of crisis, the hospitality industry recognizes a responsibility to those escaping the storm. Carl Boger, associate dean of academic programs for the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, can address how hotels manage the crisis for the weary traveler. Reach him at 713-743-2610 or cboger@central.uh.edu.

MITIGATING DAMAGE, RAPID RECOVERY
Cumaraswamy “Vipu” Vipulanandan, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Texas Hurricane Center for Innovative Technology, deals with how to mitigate damages to structures, transportation facilities, power grids, water, wastewater and oil pipelines, as well as how to protect coastal areas during extreme weather conditions. A multi-infrastructural model for coordinating the efforts of various entities for rapid recovery after a hurricane or a major disaster is being developed. Reach him at 713-743-4278 or cvipulanandan@uh.edu.

RIGHT INSURANCE POLICIES, UNDERSTANDING THE LAW KEY TO PROTECTION
Robert B. Johnson, lecturer and associate director for the Center for Consumer Law at UH, can discuss what type of insurance is needed for hurricane coverage. He can talk about FEMA’s national flood insurance program, offer tips on steps to take before a hurricane or tropical storm hits, what to do afterward if property damage is sustained and explain why residents in coastal counties may need separate policies for windstorm damage. Johnson also can discuss the topics of price gouging before hurricanes, as well as complaints involving repairs, landlords, insurance and other legalities involving damages after a storm. Reach him at 713-743-2063 or rbjohnson@uh.edu.

KEEPING ANXIETIES AT BAY
For many Houston-area residents who endured Hurricane Ike, another round of storms brings with it another round of anxieties. Peter Norton, a clinical psychologist and associate professor who runs UH’s Anxiety Disorder Clinic, works on the front lines of treatment and research. Reach him at 713-743-8675 or pnorton@uh.edu.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT WORK IN CASE OF CRISIS
Holly Hutchins, UH associate professor of human resource development, can discuss the effects a hurricane will have on employees, such as maintaining contact with employers and what to do when their place of employment has been destroyed. She also can address issues that face employers, including the areas of crisis management training and post-crisis learning. Reach her at hmhutchins@uh.edu or 713-743-4059.

THE BUSINESS OF STORM PREP
Planning is key for businesses that want to weather the storm. Backing up files and communicating with employees about recovery efforts are among the suggestions from the University of Houston Small Business Development Center. They promote the concept of “business resilience” to their clients as a way to help small business owners make the connection between preparing now and remaining in business after a storm or other adverse weather event. Reach Kimberly Smith at 713-752-8461 or knsmith@uh.edu.

THE ECONOMICS OF DISASTER RELIEF
Thomas DeGregori is an economic development expert, who has written about and been an adviser on disaster relief for 50 years. His primary interests are agriculture, food supply and hunger. His work has taken him to Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, having been involved in policy advising on agriculture and science policy for aid organizations in the U.S., U.K. and governments in developing areas. DeGregori helped mobilize long-term recovery efforts in Africa during a number of past disaster interventions, including the floods in Mozambique. Reach him at 713-743-3838 or trdegreg@uh.edu.

HOTELS AS A PORT IN THE STORM
Fernando Cuéllar, general manager of the Hilton University of Houston, has 40 years of experience in the industry. He rode out Hurricane Rita in 2005 as the general manager of the Renaissance Hotel in Greenway Plaza with 185 guests and employees, as well as 30 pets. He helped make a shelter out of one of the ballrooms, supplying it with bottled water and snacks, where they waited until the winds died down. In 2008, he weathered Hurricane Gustav in New Orleans as the general manager of the Marriott Hotel in Metairie, by Lake Pontchartrain, where he also hosted several police officers from the parish and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Reach him at 713-743-2435 or cfcuella@central.uh.edu.

SALT MARSH EXPERT
Steven Pennings, a professor in UH’s department of biology and biochemistry, is an expert in community ecology and conducts his research in the coastal wetlands. Pennings also is conducting research on the impact of sea level rise and erosion on coastal salt marshes, and has studied the effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on marshes in the Gulf Coast. He is available to discuss hurricane damage to coastal wetlands. He can be reached at 713-743-2989 or spennings@uh.edu.
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