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Dark and stormy view of South Carolina coast with palmetto tree.

USC Experts: Hurricane Season 2023

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1. Researchers at the University of South Carolina are available to discuss multiple aspects of the 2023 hurricane season, including forecasting, disaster planning and historical perspectives. To coordinate an interview, contact the staff member listed with the entry.

Building for the future

Fabio Matta is an associate professor of civil engineering who can address current and future construction materials and their structural performance under extreme stressors, such as high winds, flying debris impact from tornadoes and hurricanes, earthquakes and radionuclide exposure. New building codes are being established based on his work in the College of Engineering to prototype a low-cost unfired earth masonry reinforced with recycled plastic that can withstand tornadic pressure and impact. 

News contact: Chris Woodley,, 803-576-7745.

Inspired by Hurricane Katrina's impact, associate professor, Inthuorn Sasanakul, is using applied research to make South Carolina’s infrastructure safer and capable of withstanding natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. Using knowledge gained as a frontline investigator in New Orleans, her research and work in the College of Engineering simulates realistic stress conditions. Her lab replicates the conditions of dams, bridges and roads using an earthquake shaker and geotechnical centrifuge formerly owned by NASA.

News contact: Chris Woodley,, 803-576-7745.

Preparing medication for evacuation

Jill Michels, managing director of the Palmetto Poison Center, can discuss medication risks and needs that emerge during a storm evacuation such as improperly contained or consolidated medications. Additionally, she can discuss the need for accurate medication records and tips for medication safety.

News contact: Christina Derienzo,, 803-394-7279.

Impact of intense wind and precipitation

Jean Taylor Ellis, professor of geography with an affiliation with the School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment, investigates the effects of wind, waves and king tides on the coastal environment. She can discuss the impact of storms on shorelines. Ellis oversees the university’s Wind-Induced Nearshore Dynamics lab, which has been surveying the coast of South Carolina for seven years. Ellis served on South Carolina’s DHEC-OCRM’s Jurisdictional Line Stakeholder Workgroup and contributed to the Governor’s Floodwater Commission Report. She is the current technical advisor to SC Beach Advocates. 

News contact: Bryan Gentry,, 803-576-7650.

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 oceans using remote-sensing techniques, satellite oceanography and ocean modeling. 

News contact: Bryan Gentry,, 803-576-7650.

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, and for typhoons that impacted Hawaii and East Asian countries. Mock, whose research is funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, can discuss the meteorological characteristics, climate, tracks and forecasting aspects of hurricanes. By studying 18th- and 19th-century plantation records, newspapers, diaries, ship logbooks and early meteorological records, Mock created a perspective on hurricanes during the last several hundred years, which provides a better understanding of their patterns and the relationship between hurricanes and climate change. 

News contact: Bryan Gentry,, 803-576-7650.

Preparedness and policy

Brett Robertson, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, studies disaster preparedness and prevention communication. He can discuss barriers vulnerable and marginalized populations face during these crises and how emerging technologies can mitigate them. For instance, he researches how people use social media and mobile devices to seek help from first responders when natural disasters hit.

News contact: J. Scott Parker,, 803-777-2696. 

Hurricane impacts on community resilience

Susan Cutter, Carolina Distinguished Professor of geography, is director of the university's Hazards Vulnerability and Resilience Institute, one of the country's top facilities for integrating hazards research and geospatial information and training the next generation of emergency managers. Cutter can discuss emergency preparedness, response and recovery, social vulnerability to hazards and disasters, and the impact of storms as a function of community vulnerability and resilience and long-term recovery in communities. Cutter and colleagues at the institute have conducted field work on evacuations and evacuation behavior (Hurricane Matthew in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida) and monitored long-term recovery along the Mississippi coast after Hurricane Katrina. 

News contact: Bryan Gentry,, 803-576-7650.

Shannon A. Bowen, professor in the College of Information and Communications, studies ethics and how governmental and emergency management agencies use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and media to keep the public informed and quell misinformation. Bowen’s research is funded through a National Science Foundation grant. She can discuss the challenges citizens and these agencies face during evacuations, floods, hurricanes and other disasters, as well as ethical challenges for AI and public affairs. She can also share recommendations for national, state, and local agencies for their disaster communication and recovery efforts.

News contact: J. Scott Parker,, 803-777-2696.

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, South Carolina. He studies how marine ecosystems work and can discuss storms’ impact on microalgae and estuarine systems.

News contact: Bryan Gentry,, 803-576-7650.

Risk management and insurance 

Robert Hartwig is a finance professor in the Darla Moore School of Business and one of the nation’s leading authorities on insurance. 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. Hartwig was appointed in December 2022 to the Federal Reserve Board Insurance Policy Advisory Committee and can provide insights and economic analysis related to the insurance industry.

News contact: Marjorie Riddle Duffie,, 803-576-7337.

Financial impacts and bank borrowing capacity

Ai He, assistant professor of finance at the Darla Moore School of Business, researches the financial impact of natural disasters on bank borrowing capacity and how natural disasters and climate change can impact corporate loan pricing and interest rates. She can discuss the impact of natural disasters on banks and how climate change impacts finance.

News contact: Marjorie Riddle Duffie,, 803-576-7337.

Household Impacts

Crystal Zhan and Tamara Sheldon are associate professors of economics at the Darla Moore School of Business. Part of Zhan and Sheldon's joint research examines how natural disasters can impact household housing and financial decisions in the years after a disaster.

News contact: Marjorie Riddle Duffie,, 803-576-7337.

Economic impact of storms in tourist destinations and tourism crisis management

Rich Harrill and Drew Martin, professors in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, can discuss how the long and short-term impact of natural disasters on tourism because of canceled vacation plans and lost tourism dollars. The two can also discuss how businesses in storm-threatened areas prepare for and recover from storms and how the possibility of damage affects business plans.  

News contact: Allen Wallace,, 803-777-5667.

Scott Smith, associate professor in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, is widely recognized as a leading expert on theme parks. He can discuss the impact of storms on parks and other tourist destinations. He also provides consulting to the hotel, resort and theme park industries and can discuss how they prepare for storms and their economic impact.

News contact: Allen Wallace,, 803-777-5667.

Ashley Schroeder is an assistant professor in the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management and research lead of the Crisis Management Working Group in the Richardson Family SmartState Center for Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development. She can discuss tourism crisis management and travel-risk perceptions. She was interviewed by the World Travel and Tourism Council as an expert in tourism crisis management and was quoted in the council's Crisis Preparedness, Management and Recovery report.

News contact: Allen Wallace,, 803-777-5667.

Lori Pennington-Gray is director of the Richardson Family SmartState Center for Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development. She focuses on tourism destination resilience, crisis management and preparedness. Her work has been featured in numerous national media outlets. 

News contact: Allen Wallace,, 803-777-5667.

Legal issues and ramifications surrounding hurricane damage

Josh Eagle, Solomon Blatt Professor 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: Andersen Cook,, 803-777-8058.

Susan Kuo, associate dean for academic affairs and law professor, studies disaster law and policy, focusing on issues of vulnerability and social justice. She can discuss consideration of inequalities that exacerbate vulnerabilities to disaster harm and issues pertaining to access to resources in the wake of disaster.

News contact: Andersen Cook,, 803-777-8058.

Social media during natural disasters 

St Cyr Luttmer is manager of the university’s Social Media Insights Lab. The lab uses artificial intelligence-powered software to study online conversations around a variety of topics. Luttmer can provide analytics reports on hurricanes and emergency response, including public sentiment, recurring topics of conversation and social media influencers, and what South Carolinians are saying before, during and after hurricanes hit.
News contact: J. Scott Parker,, 803-777-2696.

Post-storm health hazards 

Patrice Penney is an associate professor in the College of Social Work. Penney is an expert in the recovery from natural disasters, including restoring safety and routines, basic physical needs and psychological first aid. Penney can address mental health care as it relates to planning and responding to a disaster. 

News contact: Victoria Montgomery,, 803-777-9462. 

Jill Michels, managing director of the Palmetto Poison Center, can discuss health threats that arise during and after hurricanes, such as the risk of food-borne illness from eating spoiled food and  carbon monoxide poisoning, which can occur with improper generator use. The Palmetto Poison Center is staffed by toxicology experts who provide free advice to South Carolina residents about exposure to poisonous materials.

News contact: Christina Derienzo,, 803-394-7279