University of Houston to lead new hurricane research center

(Patrick) #1

Seven universities in Texas, Florida and Louisiana — including Rice University — will contribute a combined $1.87 million to finance collaborative projects, with additional funding expected from external grants.

The institute puts Houston at the center of hurricane research, which had been scattered across the state and region after storms killed dozens of people, disrupted local economies and caused billions of dollars in property damage.

“Academics are nonpartisan — we think about data and information, we guide the conversation, we don’t have a vested interest in one solution versus another,” said Hanadi Rifai, a UH civil and environmental engineering professor and the center’s director. “(We will be) a very important resource to entities that don’t have that capacity.”

Other universities joining the institute are Texas Tech University, the University of Texas at Tyler, Louisiana State University, the University of Miami and the University of Florida. The center will be based in UH’s engineering college.

(Patrick) #2

“Much attention has been paid to understanding how hurricanes form and move, as well as coastal vulnerabilities,” Elnashai said. “But there has not been a systems view that accounts for the interactions and inter-connectivity of impact and resilience of all societal support functions, to manage assessment, impact, response and recovery as a continuum, thus protecting vulnerable communities.”

Hanadi Rifai, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of civil and environmental engineering at UH, will serve as director. Her work includes an ongoing study of the chemical and microbiological contamination in Houston waterways after Harvey.

Each institution brings unique research capabilities – in engineering, science, policy, education and technology – and significant institutional support that will be supplemented with external grants and contracts and cooperative agreements to launch projects in hurricane resilience.


This is great for UH.

(Patrick) #4

Rice’s withdrawal means that the private university’s decade-old storm center and its faculty will not be collaborating on projects financed and undertaken by the new center. Rice’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters center – itself a coalition of researchers from different schools – has worked with academics, emergency managers and public and private agencies since 2007.

“Since the announcement of the institute by UH, I’ve acquired five more Harvey-related projects through the Rice Houston Engagement and Recovery Effort and several other entities,” Philip Bedient, the SSPEED Center’s director, said in an email. “I don’t have the time and resources to commit to additional hurricane research efforts that UH is planning.”

(Mark) #5

Hopefully it comes with an expanded atmospheric science program. We should be running with Florida State at least as tropical meteorology goes.

(Patrick) #6

“Within our engineering college, we have people that are focused on wind resistance—wind engineers at UF trying to understand the impact of wind on buildings,” said Chimay Anumba, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Design, Construction and Planning at UF. “We are looking on a broader scale in terms of how cities in the entire state can manage the impact of storms and how the building environment can protect it.”

(Patrick) #7

Google Search Link:

Officials at A&M and UH say the relationship between the universities is solid. They call the withdrawal a matter of timing given Sharp’s dual roles.

“We are still literally out in the field with people on behalf of the Commission to Rebuild Texas,” said Norman Garza, A&M’s assistant vice chancellor for government relations. “It was a matter of timing that was off. It wasn’t yet proper to go to the next level.”