1.4 When Can We Talk about the Successes? Perspectives on the Impacts of Hurricane Dorian to Buildings and Infrastructure in the Bahamas

Monday, 13 January 2020: 9:15 AM
Ballroom East (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Tracy L. Kijewski-Correa, Univ. of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN; and D. Allen, J. W. Berman, J. M. Kaihatu, A. B. Kennedy, H. D. Lester, A. Lyda, J. D. Marshall, K. M. Mosalam, D. O. Prevatt, I. N. Robertson, D. Roueche, D. J. Smith, and R. L. Wood

During and following major weather disasters, much of the focus is on the failures that occurred
to the built and natural environments. However, while there is understandably a need to focus on
the destruction (e.g., in order to provide empathy to those who suffered, and to increase
participation in response and recovery efforts), there are often notable successes that are also
present but too often ignored, which can provide vital lessons on the value of resilience and
hurricane damage mitigation efforts. This talk provides perspectives on successes and failures
observed in buildings and infrastructure after Hurricane Dorian by the Structural Extreme Events
Reconnaissance (StEER) network, an NSF-funded, community-driven network dedicated to
advancing resilience through post-disaster reconnaissance. While specific engineering lessons
will be shared, the objective of this talk is to bring awareness to the disaster community,
including the weather enterprise, of the successes and the reasons for them, and engage the
community in acknowledging and highlighting such successes in future events.
Hurricane Dorian impacted the northwest Bahamas with hurricane force conditions, at times
record-breaking conditions, for almost 36 hours over a period between
September 1-3, 2019. Sustained winds reached approximately 290 km/hr as it first made landfall on Elbow Cay with a
central pressure of 915 MB and storm surge estimated as high as 7 meters above normal tide
levels. Dorian sustained its intensity as it moved slowly through Great Abaco and eastern Grand
Bahamas, before weakening slightly as it stalled just north of Grand Bahama. Dorian finally
moved northwest towards the east coast of the US on September 3, 2019, causing major flooding
and some wind damage as it moved just offshore of the east coast. The prolonged exposure to
extreme hazards associated with Dorian presented a true worst-case scenario for the island
communities in Great Abaco, Grand Bahama and the surrounding cays.
StEER engaged in a multi-pronged reconnaissance effort immediately following landfall,
including (1) virtual assessments resulting in the publication of a Preliminary Virtual
Reconnaissance Report (PVRR); (2) deployment of two Field Assessment Structural Teams
(FAST) to document first-hand observations across a gradient of wind speeds, storm surge
intensities, and building typologies in the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama; and (3) curation and
publication of the resulting datasets and engineering reports for open use through the National
Science Foundation DesignSafe cyberinfrastructure. The FAST deployments were conducted
between September 24-25, 2019, and between October 4-8, 2019, utilizing a mixture of
Streetview imaging, door-to-door forensic assessments, and lidar to document building and
infrastructure performance, and estimate hazard intensities. The team observed a number of
buildings that performed well structurally, including a significant number, in areas subjected to
the greatest hazards, that had no observable exterior damage. Successes and failures will be
contrasted, with discussion of the major causal factors that led to the disparity in performance.
The engineering lessons are contextualized within a broader discussion of the unique socio-
economic challenges driving the need for resiliency in island nations.
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