DIMACS/CCICADA Workshop on S&T Innovations in Hurricane Sandy Research

June 5, 2013
DIMACS Center, CoRE Building, Rutgers University

David Mendonca, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, mendod at rpi.edu
Fred Roberts, Director of CCICADA, froberts at dimacs.rutgers.edu
Presented under the auspices of The Command, Control, and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis (CCICADA) and the DIMACS Special Focus on Algorithmic Decision Theory.


Alex Markowski, Assistant Commissioner for Logistics, NYC Office of Emergency Management


Alex Markowski is OEM's Assistant Commissioner for Logistics. He is responsible for managing logistics and support services at OEM, including the Citywide Logistics Program, the NYC Emergency Supply Stockpile, and OEM facilities, fleet, fire safety, and worker health and safety. He is also one of three managers of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the Logistics Program Lead for the NY-NJ-CT-PA Regional Catastrophic Planning Grant Program. Since joining OEM in 2003, he has led several disaster logistics initiatives including a program to build the City's stockpile to support 70,000 people in emergency shelters for up to seven days. After Hurricane Ike made landfall in 2008, he was detailed to the EOC in Harris County, TX, to support the Logistics Section. He served as the EOC Manager during Hurricane Irene in 2011 and as the Logistics Chief during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. He holds a bachelor's degree in political science and history from Loyola University, and a master's degree in national security studies from Georgetown University.

David A. Robinson, Rutgers University

Title: Sandy's Fury

Sandy, a category 1 hurricane as it approached the New Jersey coast during the daytime hours of October 29, 2012 and a post-tropical cyclone as it came ashore near Atlantic City that evening, dealt New Jersey and surrounding states a punishing blow. It took a unique combination of meteorological and climatological features to bring post-tropical cyclone Sandy onshore. While Sandy's genesis in the Caribbean Sea a week earlier was not all that unusual, a combination of atmospheric and oceanic conditions subsequently combined to sustain the storm's strength and influence its trajectory such that it eventually made a rare New Jersey landfall soon after being declassified as a hurricane. Contributing to the strength of the storm as it headed toward NJ was above average sea surface temperature, the result of an unprecedented 21 consecutive months of above average atmospheric temperatures. Atmospherically, a blocking high pressure system in the far north Atlantic prevented Sandy from a common path away from the East Coast and out to sea. Associated with the block was a sinuous jet stream with a trough or dip in the jet dropping into the eastern US. The cold air in the trough clashed with the warmth off the coast to maintain Sandy's energy as it transitioned from a tropical storm to extratropical cyclone while approaching the coast. The jet stream pattern also helped draw Sandy westward toward the coast, a most unusual direction for any mid latitude storm. The result was a storm that brought record low barometric pressure to the southern half of NJ, over ten inches of rain in Cape May County, and winds gusting to as high as 90 mph along the NJ coast and 70 mph inland over a several hour period. Accompanying this atmospheric onslaught was a record-shattering coastal storm surge along the northern coast and into nearby bays, rivers and harbors that was as much as 14 feet over mean low water. This surge was made worse by landfall close to high tide and a full moon, in addition to sea level presently being about a foot higher than a century earlier.

The result was a storm that caused damage that equaled or surpassed the worst coastal battering on record. The storm surge along the northern coast exceeded the previous record at Sandy Hook by over 4 feet. Sandy falls alongside the nor'easter of March 1962 and the hurricane of September 1944 as NJ's most destructive coastal storms of the past century. It is likely that inland winds had never been as strong or of a multi-hour duration in the modern era across central and northern areas; perhaps not since an 1821 hurricane ravaged the region. While precipitation was not excessive over most of the state, the far southern coastal region had a deluge that statistically happens no more than once every 200 years.

As much as a week prior to Sandy's arrival, forecasts were already suggesting that impacts of the storm on NJ could be significant. At this point those of us in the Office of the NJ State Climatologist (ONJSC) began to ensure that our more than 50 automated weather stations distributed across NJ from High Point to Cape May were in good operating condition. Storm preparations included several trips to sites for critical maintenance. In the office, a decision was made to quickly develop a web dashboard that would deliver timely information of NJ weather conditions as Sandy moved into and through the state. This would involve the inaugural dissemination of real-time 5-minute observations from our NJ Weather and Climate Network (NJWxNet), not just the hourly observations that have been freely available over the past decade. The dashboard was launched on Sunday the 28th, with word of it sent to the NJ Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM) operations center, the National Weather Service, and various media sources, as well as being announced on our ONJSC and weather network websites, our Facebook page, and via Twitter. During the 3-day period from Sunday to Tuesday there were just shy of 30,000 absolute unique visitors and around 280,000 page views. Throughout Sandy, the dashboard was displayed on one of the large screens that cover a wall of the OEM center.

A post-storm assessment of all 52 stations on the dashboard showed rather remarkable results. Our worst performance hour was noon on Tuesday the 30th, when only 39 stations reported. Our efforts in recent years to put most stations on solar power paid huge dividends. Only a single instrument at one NJWxNet station was damaged during the storm, that being an anemometer at Harvey Cedars. Every one of our 5 coastal stations continued operating and communicating throughout the storm. Our Jersey City station at Liberty Science Center was flooded by 17" of harbor water, which fortunately never reached instrument level. The sonic snow sensor at the site measured this water level.

This presentation will speak of Sandy's fury and how the ONJSC contributed to storm monitoring and recovery. Consideration will also be given as to whether Sandy is a sign of possible changes in the climate system that might result in more frequent powerful storms striking the mid Atlantic in the years ahead.

Fred S. Roberts, CCICADA Center, Rutgers University

Title: Data Science and Emergency Preparedness at CCICADA

We present examples from research on data science and emergency preparedness at the Command, Control, and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis, CCICADA. Examples include comparison of flood mitigation alternatives on the Raritan River in New Jersey; work with the Hippocrates health emergency situational awareness tool; social media and emergency response; port resilience; evacuation modeling; and economics and security applied to emergency situations.

Jennifer Rovito, Rutgers University

Title: Data Visualizations for Understanding Risk

In response to the damage and destruction that Hurricane Sandy caused much of the Coastal areas of New Jersey, Rutgers University has proposed to map and analyze the region through two approaches. The first is to map FEMA flood related payouts (IA, PA, and NFIP) across the State per major storm event to help municipal and county planners as well as emergency management personnel when preparing updates to their Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Recovery Plans, as well as identifying areas that should be evaluated for possible property buyouts and relocation of families and businesses. The second approach is to collect ground based LiDAR of the hardest hit areas to help communities visualize how the new advisory based flood elevations will impact their homes current structure and to guide them on what needs to be done so they comply with the new flooding regulations recently issued to qualify for flood insurance.

Gavin Smith, Department of Homeland Security Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Title: Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery

Disaster losses continue to mount in the United States and around the world. The Indian Ocean tsunami (2004); Hurricanes Katrina (2005), Ike (2008) and Sandy (2013); the Haiti earthquake (2010); and the threat of climate change-induced hazards provide stark reminders of past and future challenges, including those associated with disaster recovery. The common approach to disaster recovery in the United States is to rely on the administration of narrowly defined federal grant programs rather than the larger assistance network and the many resources it can provide. The result is typically the uncoordinated implementation of varied programs administered by different stakeholders acting in isolation.

The failure to plan for disaster recovery results in a process of rebuilding that often presages the next disaster. It also limits the collective maximization of governmental, nonprofit, and private resources, including those resources that are available at the community level. As individuals, groups, communities, and organizations routinely struggle to recover from disasters, they are beset by a duplication of effort, poor inter-organizational coordination, the development and implementation of policies that are not shaped by local needs, and the spreading of misinformation. Yet the perceived value of pre-event planning for post-disaster recovery remains low.

This presentation, which is based on the book, Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: A Review of the United States Disaster Assistance Framework (Island Press 2011), blends what we know about disaster recovery from the research literature and an analysis of existing practice to uncover both problems and recommended solutions. The lessons are intended for hazard scholars, practitioners, and others who have not assimilated or acted upon the existing body of knowledge, or who are unexpectedly drawn into the recovery process following a disaster.


Jie Gong and Ali Maher, Rutgers University

Title: High-Resolution 3D Geospatial Mapping and Analysis for Supporting Post-Sandy Disaster Recovery

Hurricane Sandy, the worst storm of its type hitting the state of New Jersey and the New York City in generations, has caused devastating damages to the region's infrastructure, properties, and business. A variety of geospatial information acquisition technologies have been used after the landing of Hurricane Sandy to support critical decision makings related to search and rescue, damage assessment, environmental risk analysis, debris removal, and rebuilding processes. This research focuses on a large-scale application of mobile terrestrial laser scanning technology in post-hurricane situations for supporting disaster recovery operations in the United States. Several innovative data analysis approaches for supporting damage assessment and flood resilience analysis are presented in the poster.

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Document last modified on June 3, 2013.