4.5 Educating and Engaging Communities on Impacts of Severe Weather through Fast Response Engineering Assessments of Social Media Data

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 4:30 PM
Room 338/339 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
David B. Roueche, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; and D. O. Prevatt and J. Doreste

When significant damaging weather events occur that affect our towns and communities, social media lights up with data, including storm sightings and building damage photographs, from official sources and the numerous persons affected by the event. In the immediate aftermath, it is difficult for the public to decipher truth from fiction, or to place the event into proper context. Professional evaluation is necessary that incorporates both knowledge of the hazard itself, to estimate its size and intensity, and structural engineering and construction knowledge to determine the wind resistance, or vulnerability, of the damaged structures. The relationship between hazard and vulnerability is valuable to educate community residents of the impacts that such events such as tornadoes and cyclones can create. This paper describes a novel approach to develop a through and complete damage assessment report within 24-48 hours following the occurrence of a tornado or cyclone. As part of an NSF-supported project, the approach was developed by University of Florida faculty and students, called the Wind Hazard Damage Assessment Group (WHDAG), found at http://windhazard.davidoprevatt.com. The purpose of WHDAG is to provide training to university students in forensic investigations, wind engineering and structural performance of buildings, primarily residential, affected by strong winds. A practical WHDAG outcome was to develop a methodology for collating damage information and storm event strengths in publishable format, and identifying cause and consequences of its effects on the buildings. This presentation presents the approach used for data collections, data review and dissemination of the WHDAG reports. It demonstrates the procedures used by considering five severe weather events that occurred in 2015. These included a large, violent tornado in the small town of Fairdale, IL that narrowly avoided large urban areas, and a tornado outbreak with heavy rainfall that led to several reports of floating underground storm shelters. Also included are the impacts of three cyclones Marcia, Nathan and Olwyn that struck Australia. The presentation concludes with an assessment of the WHDAG and its impact on reducing the vulnerability of at-risk communities.
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