UofSC experts: 2021 hurricane season

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1. Researchers at the University of South Carolina are available to discuss multiple aspects of the 2021 hurricane season, including forecasting, disaster planning and historical perspectives. To coordinate an interview, contact the staff member listed with each expert entry.

Post-storm health hazards

What are the health threats after a hurricane? Jill Michels, managing director of the Palmetto Poison Center, can discuss problems that arise during recovery, such as the risk of food-borne illness from eating spoiled food. In addition, she can address carbon monoxide poisoning, which can occur when generators are used improperly. The Palmetto Poison Center is staffed by toxicology experts who provide free advice to S.C. residents about exposure to poisonous materials.
News contact: Tenell Felder, tenell@mailbox.sc.edu

Infrastructure, levee breaches, closure procedures and mobility

Shelley Welton, an environmental law professor, can speak to enhancing grid resilience and reliability in light of and in the wake of natural disasters.  She has written extensively on how to transform our electrical grids and her research focuses on how climate change is transforming energy and environmental law and governance. Welton teaches courses on Energy Law, Environmental Law and Policy, and Climate Change Law.
News contact: Rob Schaller, rschaller@sc.edu, 803-777-5611.

Nathan Huynh, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering, has experience in the areas of evacuation, transportation network vulnerability and resiliency, freight logistics and intermodal network design.
News contact: Rachel Myers, rkmyers@cec.sc.edu, 803-777-9593

Hanif Chaudhry, associate dean in the College of Engineering and Computing, has studied the levee breaches in New Orleans, the worst of which occurred at the 17th Street Canal. Chaudhry just completed a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation that led an international research effort on modeling of flood hazards due to levee breach and dam failure.
News contact: Rachel Myers, rkmyers@cec.sc.edu, 803-777-9593

Inthuorn Sasanakul, associate professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering has studied dam, levee, seawall, landslides, road embankments and bridge foundations after 2017 hurricanes which hit Florida (Irma) and Puerto Rico (Maria) and the 2015 historic floods in S.C. She has expertise in geotechnical system response and soil characterization subjected to natural hazards such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.
News contact: Rachel Myers, rkmyers@cec.sc.edu, 803-777-9593

Erfan Goharian, assistant professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering, has experience in the areas of extreme climate events and their effects on water resources systems, integrated water resources management, hydrology, and systems engineering.
News contact: Rachel Myers, rkmyers@cec.sc.edu, 803-777-9593

Social media listening during natural disasters

What are South Carolinians saying before, during and after hurricanes hit? The university’s Social Media Insights Lab uses artificial intelligence-powered software to study online conversations around a variety of topics. Kaitlyn Park, Insights Lab manager, can provide analytics reports on hurricanes and emergency response, including public sentiment, recurring topics of conversation, social media influencers and more.
News contact: Rebekah Friedman, rebekahb@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-576-7270

Preparing medication for evacuation

Although it may be tempting to consolidate medicine into a single container during an evacuation, keeping pills in their original bottle is important for medication safety. Jill Michels, managing director of the Palmetto Poison Center, can discuss the risk of ingestion by children from improperly contained medications as well as the need for health care providers to have accurate information about a patient’s medications in case of extended displacement.
News contact: Tenell Felder, tenell@mailbox.sc.edu

Impact of intense wind and precipitation

Jean Taylor Ellis, associate professor of geography with an affiliation with the School of the Earth, Ocean and the Environment, investigates the effects of wind and waves on the coastal environment. Ellis oversees the university’s Wind-Induced Nearshore Dynamics lab (WINDlab), which has been surveying the dunes of South Carolina for four years. She is interested in how the beaches, dunes, and surrounding communities are impacted by hurricanes. Recently, Dr. Ellis was on South Carolina’s DHEC-OCRM’s Jurisdictional Line Stakeholder Workgroup and contributed to the Governor’s Floodwater Commission Report. She can address the impact of storms and humans on shorelines.
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu

Hurricanes' impact on oceans

Subra Bulusu is a professor of satellite oceanography and physical oceanography and head of the Satellite Oceanography Laboratory in the School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment. He can discuss a hurricane's impact on the oceans using remote-sensing techniques, satellite oceanography and ocean modeling. He served (2017-2020)  as the committee member for the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Currently he is on the NOAA's Extreme events ocean observations task team.
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu

Assessing storm surge and damage

Jerry Mitchell, director of the S.C. Geographic Alliance, can discuss the nature and dynamics of storm surge and how the vulnerability of communities is determined. Mitchell, along with other university geography researchers, mapped storm-surge inundation from Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast and assessed where residents were the most vulnerable.
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu

Recreating U.S. hurricane history

Cary Mock, professor of geography and a climatologist, has reconstructed a hurricane history for South Carolina and other areas of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as for typhoons in the Pacific Ocean, including Hawaii. From studying old diaries, 18th- and 19th-century plantation records, newspapers, ship logbooks and early meteorological records, he has created a perspective on hurricanes during the last several hundred years, which, in turn, is leading to a better understanding of hurricane patterns and the relationships between hurricanes and global climate change. Mock, who teaches meteorology courses, also can discuss the meteorological characteristics, climate, tracks and forecasting aspects of hurricanes. His research is funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu

Preparedness and policy

When natural disasters hit, how do people use social media and mobile devices to seek help from first responders? Brett Robertson, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, studies disaster preparedness and prevention communication. He can discuss the barriers vulnerable and marginalized populations face during these crises and how emerging technologies can mediate them.
News contact: Rebekah Friedman, rebekahb@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-576-7270

Susan Cutter, Carolina Distinguished Professor of Geography, is considered one of the leading authorities in the world on emergency preparedness, response and recovery, and social vulnerability to hazards and disasters. She is frequently consulted by government agencies for her expertise in the roles of public agencies, such as FEMA and state emergency-preparedness offices, in handling disasters. As director of the university's Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute, one of the country's top facilities for integrating hazards research with geospatial information, Cutter has done extensive grant-funded research on hurricane evacuations and how and when people decide whether to evacuate. She has also studied the differential impacts of storms as a function of community vulnerability and resilience.

Cutter and colleagues at the institute conducted a survey of evacuation behavior from Hurricane Matthew in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu

Professor Shannon Bowen has studied how emergency management agencies use social media to keep the public informed and quell rumors. She can discuss the challenges these agencies face during floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters. She can also share recommendation for agencies seeking to improve their disaster communication efforts.
News contact: Rebekah Friedman, rebekahb@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-576-7270

Impact of storms on coastal ecology, salt marshes and water quality

James Pinckney is a marine ecologist, professor in the School of the Earth Ocean and Environment and director of the Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences near Georgetown, S.C.  He studies how marine ecosystems work and can discuss storms’ impact on microalgae and estuarine systems.
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu, 803-576-7650


Economic impact of storms in tourist destinations

Rich Harrill and Drew Martin, professors in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, can offer insights about the impact of natural disasters on tourism. Canceled vacation plans and lost tourism dollars can have both short-term and lasting economic effects. Harrill and Martin can discuss on how businesses in storm-threatened areas prepare for and recover from storms, as well as how the possibility of damage affects business plans.
News contact: Allen Wallace, awallace@sc.edu, 803-777-5667

Scott Smith is widely recognized as a leading expert on theme parks, and has written and spoken to media about the impact of storms on parks and other tourist destinations. He also provides consulting to the hotel, resort and theme park industries.
News contact: Allen Wallace, awallace@sc.edu, 803-777-5667

Law and policies of adapting to climate impacts

Nathan Richardson, an assistant professor in the university's School of Law, specializes in environmental and energy law, especially the law and policy of climate change. He can discuss local, regional and national laws and policies aimed at adaptation to climate impacts, including sea level rise and extreme weather events, and the role of various levels of government and agencies in disaster response.
News contact: Rob Schaller, rschaller@sc.edu, 803-777-5611

Legal issues and ramifications surrounding hurricane damage

Josh Eagle, the Solomon Blatt Professor of Law in the university’s School of Law, specializes in natural resources and coastal law and can discuss environmental-policy implications and regulatory requirements related to hurricanes. Eagle, an authority on coastal law, which encompasses land use and development, property and preservation of natural resources, wrote the first textbook devoted to the subject of coastal law, released in 2011.
News contact: Rob Schaller, rschaller@sc.edu, 803-777-5611

Susan Kuo, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law, studies disaster law and policy, focusing especially on issues of vulnerability and social justice. Her research includes consideration of inequalities that exacerbate vulnerabilities to disaster harm and issues pertaining to access to resources in the wake of disaster.
News contact: Rob Schaller, rschaller@sc.edu, 803-777-5611

Risk management and insurance

Robert Hartwig is one of the nation’s leading authorities on insurance. Before joining the Darla Moore School of Business as a finance professor in 2016, he was president of Insurance Information Institute. Hartwig is frequently sought by national media for insights and economic analysis in the insurance industry. He can discuss risk assessment, insurance pricing and public policy issues related to insurance for coastal residents and businesses. Specific topics include catastrophe modeling, catastrophe bonds, catastrophe reinsurance, and the National Flood Insurance Program.
News contact: Leigh-Anne Lawrence, leigh-anne.lawrence@moore.sc.edu, 803-777-4306

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