With the 2014 hurricane season about to enter its busiest time, the University of Houston will host an annual conference on preparation and coastal protection on Aug. 1.
Open to emergency managers, industry suppliers and members of the community, the conference – the sixth annual Hurricanes, Major Disasters, Coastal Protection and Rapid Recovery in Texas and the Gulf Coast Region – is focused on rapid recovery from major disasters, said Cumaraswamy “Vipu” Vipulanandan, director of the Texas Hurricane Center for Innovative Technology and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the UH Cullen College of Engineering.
The conference is sponsored by the Texas Hurricane Center and the civil and environmental engineering department, as well as the industrial engineering department at UH. It will take place 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the Hilton University of Houston.
The Gulf Coast hasn’t been hit by a major storm since Hurricane Ike in 2008, but Vipulanandan said regional planners and residents can’t afford to be complacent.
A new report by CoreLogic, a California-based data analysis firm, estimated that the Houston area could face $41.9 billion in reconstruction cost from storm surge damage from a major hurricane.
“We can always say Ike came in 2008 and now we won’t get another hurricane for 25 years,” Vipulanandan said. “The predictions are for this to be a low-key year. But things can change rapidly. The community has to be prepared.”
Speakers include Baytown Mayor Stephen DonCarlos; Fort Bend County Judge Robert Herbert; Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Department of Emergency Management and Jack Steele, executive director of the Houston Galveston Area Council.
Vipulanandan will moderate a panel on coastal protection, with presentations on various options under consideration, including the Ike Dike, a coastal barrier designed to protect the region from storm surge. Presenters include William Merrell and Leonard Waterworth from Texas A&M University at Galveston and Robert Whalin and Thomas Richardson from Jackson State University in Mississippi.
Vipulanandan will discuss a proposal he developed in 2009 to use a shutter system to protect vulnerable coastal structures.
One of the big concerns, he said, is not only a storm surge but the impact on oil platforms and other industrial facilities along the Houston Ship Channel.
“It could be a man-made disaster along with a natural disaster,” he said.
For more information on the conference, see http://hurricane.egr.uh.edu/sites/hurricane.egr.uh.edu/files/files/2014/thc-2014-conf-brochure-6-07-2014.pdf.