The Senate Commerce Committee' Subcommittee on Disaster Prevention and Prediction will hold a field hearing on Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 9:00am on "Hurricane Preparedness in the Grand Strand" at the Springmaid Beach Resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The scheduled witnesses are:
The scheduled witnesses are:
Mr. Brad DeanPresidentMyrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
TESTIMONY to the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Subcommittee on Disaster Prevention and Prediction.
Hearing: August 10, 2005, at 9:00am, Springmaid Beach Resort, Myrtle Beach, SC
Given By: Brad Dean, President & CEO, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
SUMMARY Tourism is a major industry along the Grand Strand and in South Carolina. The state’s tourism industry accounts for $15 Billion of economic impact, in addition to over $1 Billion in state and local taxes. The Grand Strand accounts for nearly one-third that amount. Grand Strand tourism peaks in the summer, with as many as 500,000 daily visitors spending in excess of $40 million. The use of the 5-day hurricane forecast has a negative impact on tourism, as it projects possible strikes with a broad “cone of uncertainly” that spans hundreds of miles. The result of the 5-day forecast is two-fold: it unnecessarily projects a path that is far from certain, potentially scaring tourists away; and it can lead to such consistently inaccurate results that residents and visitors accumulate a false sense of security through experience based upon the consistent inaccuracy of the 5-day forecast. The 5-day forecast was implemented with little or not input from the tourism industry, but it appears this forecast is here to stay. Ultimately, the solution is not eliminating the 5-day forecast but, rather, improving it. If the 5-day forecast were as accurate as the 3-day forecast is today, the tourism industry would welcome its use. The best possible solution is improved weather forecasting, yielding a 5-day forecast with a high level of accuracy. Because we are so significantly impacted by weather and weather patterns, a weather forecast is a key part of our local tourism trends. Some estimates indicate that as much as 40% of our visitor base during any week during the summer is dependent on the immediate weather forecast. This not surprising when one considers that 44% of the annual visitor traffic to the Myrtle Beach area comes from North and South Carolinas. A few years ago, when we first learned of the proposed five-day hurricane forecast, many Grand Strand residents and businesses became concerned. Knowing that the 3-day forecast was far from perfect, we were justifiably concerned with the planned use of the 5-day forecast. How could the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a division of the Department of Commerce, expect to implement this with little or no input from the tourism industry, the very industry that stands to gain the most from accurate weather reporting and, likewise, stands to lose the most with inaccurate weather forecasting. After all, NOAA’s mission statement (see Exhibit A) includes mention of “improve economic efficiency by providing the best watches, warnings and forecasts”. We were told this change was necessary for the United States Navy to protect its large fleet off the coast of Florida and, furthermore, that emergency planners along the coastal regions of the United States preferred the 5-day forecast. I think I can safely speak for the tourism industry when I say that we had no concerns, then or now, with the use of the 5-day forecast by the U.S. Navy nor emergency planners. After all, both must plan in advance far before individual citizens need to do so. What was most concerning was the large margin of error incumbent in the 5-day forecast. By their own admission, meteorologists with NOAA and the National Weather Service described the massive area of strike probability a “cone of uncertainty”. This area, which can encompass hundreds of square miles, is accurately referred to as such, since the use of this 5-day forecast has revealed a high degree of inaccuracy (see Exhibit B). I have enclosed a document, obtained from the NOAA website, which shows a graphic representation of the average accuracy of various hurricane forecasts over a 10-year period. Two observations are clear and indisputable: (a) the 3-day forecast is far more accurate today than ever before; (b) the 5-day forecast is far less accurate and not nearly as reliable as the 3-day forecast. Recent examples of these observations have been witnessed by many. Hurricane Charley, a serious storm that caused much damage in the Southeastern United States, made landfall near Punta Gorda, FL despite a forecast track that pointed toward Tampa Bay, FL, an area nearly 100 miles north of the actual landfall. Early forecasts of Tropical Storm Bonnie showed forecasted paths of southern Florida, then later Texas and Louisiana, before the storm followed an awkward path in the Gulf of Mexico and ultimately made landfall along the Florida panhandle. Proponents of a 5-day hurricane forecast will no doubt point out that the five-day forecast in both of the storm situations mentioned above included a wide area, wide enough to encompass geographic areas that needed to prepare for such a storm. But this inherent inaccuracy is the very root of the problem. Once the national media have publicized the five-day forecast, areas with little probability of serious storm threats will necessarily be included in the five-day forecast “cone of uncertainty”. It is not uncommon for more than one state to be included. At the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, it is quite common to receive many phone calls from distressed visitors seeking to change or cancel their vacation plans once the first mention of the Myrtle Beach area or even “the Carolinas” is made with respect to a possible hurricane path. If only the visitors from states other than North and South Carolina unnecessarily change their vacation plans to the coast of South Carolina due to a hurricane, the economic costs can be in excess of $25 million per day. Please bear in mind, this refers to one single vacation destination in one single state. But, the ultimate cost is not economic but, rather, in human life and safety. With so much inherent inaccuracy in the five-day forecast, meteorologists are transformed into a modern-day, high-tech version of “Chicken Little”, unintentionally announcing the sky may be falling. This is through no fault of their own but, rather, through the customary use of the 5-day forecast published by NOAA. Though some meteorologists have spoken out publicly against the use of the 5-day forecast, its use continues. Proponents of this forecast argue for its publication, essentially noting that “any information is better than no information”. They rightfully note that the potential safety and protection of life and property justifies the use of the 5-day forecast. These arguments may seem logical at first but ignore the damage that a consistently inaccurate hurricane forecast can cause. A forecast that is more likely to be wrong than right wrong may only serve to prompt residents and visitors to ignore such a forecast, or worse yet, to believe that weather forecasting in general is inaccurate. This is despite a very accurate 3-day forecast which has proven to be a reliable tool that allows public safety personnel more than enough time to evacuate the Grand Strand which, when at its peak, is one of the busiest vacation destinations in the entire nation. And that is done despite this area being the nation’s most popular vacation destination with no direct access to an interstate, yet with 93% of our visitors driving here. Despite large numbers of visitors in automobiles and insufficient infrastructure for visitors to leave the area, the 3-day forecast has proven more than sufficient to manage the safety of our visitors and residents. With an amazingly high level of accuracy in the 3-day forecast, and a disappointing level of inaccuracy in the 5-day forecast, it is easy to understand why many in the tourism industry were surprised and somewhat disappointed when the 5-day forecast became a common forecasting tool. Nevertheless, this genie is out of the bottle and not likely to return. So, it is appropriate for us to work together, in a collaborative manner, to seek the best possible outcome, and that is an outcome that all involved in this discussion can agree to: the clear, indisputable need for improved weather forecasting. Those of us in the tourism industry who have been the staunchest opponents of the 5-day forecast would become, perhaps, its biggest proponents if the level of accuracy were increased to a level similar to that of the 3-day forecast. Improved forecasting would be far less likely to unnecessarily harm a coastal tourism economy in any state. Further, an accurate 5-day forecast would be more reliable in the eyes of individual citizens whose safety must come first, before any economic loss or promise of economic gain. I am reminded of the old saying that “change is not always better, but to be better, one must be willing to change”. Clearly, the 5-day forecast has not proven to be a better forecasting tool, even by the admission of those who use it regularly. Some meteorologists have even spoken out against the use of the 5-day forecast, noting their clear preference for an accurate 3-day forecast. Furthermore, this change has caused unnecessary concern and economic loss since its implementation. For the benefit of all, including the safety of our residents and our visitors, improved weather forecasting that increases the accuracy of the 5-day hurricane forecast will be better for all involved, ultimately enhancing the safety of our citizens and the vibrancy of our national tourism economy.
David Prevatt, Ph.D., PEAssistant Professor-DirectorWind Load Test Facility, Clemson University
Testimony of David O. Prevatt, Ph.D., PE Assistant
Professor and Director of the Wind Load Test Facility,
Department of Civil Engineering, Clemson University
10 August 2005
Before the Subcommittee on Disaster Prevention and
Prediction of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and
Transportation of the United States Senate Myrtle Beach, SC
1. INTRODUCTION Chairman DeMint and members of the Subcommittee, my name is David Prevatt, and I am a professional engineer and an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Clemson University. Since 1990 I have been doing research to mitigate the effects of hurricanes to low-rise coastal structures. I also direct the Wind Load Test Facility, which is a research laboratory focused on research to mitigate the effects of hurricane wind loads on low-rise buildings. We are actively involved in creating basic knowledge and developing practical solutions for use by engineers and homeowners to improve the resistance of buildings to hurricanes, thereby minimizing damage and reducing loss. I very much appreciate the opportunity to appear before this Sub-committee and to testify in this hearing. In this testimony I will first present an engineer’s view of the potential for catastrophic hurricane damage facing our South Carolina coastal communities. Next, I will present my observations of structural damage during the 2004 hurricane season and present recommendations that can reduce the vulnerability of buildings. Finally, I will discuss what the engineering research community is doing to reduce wind damage to and vulnerability of buildings in hurricane-prone areas, and how the research community’s results affect public policy. For almost a generation (1965 to 1994), the frequency of hurricanes in the North Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Region was relatively low and few hurricanes made landfall in the US. Concurrently during this period, there has been urban development along vulnerable US coastlines, and as a result, about 50% of the US population now lives in hurricane prone coastal areas1. Hundreds of miles of once empty coastlines are now major population centers with trillions of dollars of buildings and infrastructure exposed to the risk of hurricane damage. Mitigating hurricane damage is of special concern to Americans living in our coastal communities including the coastal communities of South Carolina. Public and private support for science and technology research is urgently needed in order to address the mounting economic losses and manage the risks from future hurricanes. Currently, federal support for hurricane research lags woefully behind support for other natural hazards. In 2000, Margaret Davidson of NOAA-Coastal Services comparing the research funding for earthquake risk with hurricane risk provided data showing that while the total damage from earthquakes in the 20th century was only about half the total damage from hurricanes ($47.97 billion to $100.7 billion), the research funding for earthquake reduction was seven times greater than funding for hurricane research (>$350 million for earthquake as opposed to $50 million for hurricane research)1. The scenario in the 21st century will be different; more property is at risk from hurricanes and more lives that will be affected. Four Questions to Consider: • What will it mean to the Myrtle Beach (and Charleston) tourism industry and to the State of South Carolina when (not if) a large, powerful hurricane makes landfall? • What would be the impact of such a disaster on the lives of many full-year residents who rely on the tourism, timber and fisheries industries for employment? • If strengthening all buildings will minimize future losses, what should engineering science and technology researchers do to support coastal community efforts to protect itself from the threat of future hurricane damage? • Is the community better served by spending already limited resources on inevitable post-hurricane repairs or instead, systematically investing in scheduled “pre-hurricane” Improvements to buildings? The Grand Strand may face as a minimum, $3 to 4 billion dollars in damages and an extended recovery period lasting 6 to 8 months or longer. In 1990, participants who attended the ASCE-sponsored Hurricane Hugo - One Year Later Conference2, may recall that the city of Charleston was still picking-up and repairing its buildings during those deliberations 12 months after Hugo. Although the loss to the forestry and fisheries industries may as yet be beyond our control, as engineers we can and should do something to improve the resistance of our built infrastructure to withstand hurricanes and minimize loss. Furthermore, as illustrated by the Northridge (1994) and Loma Prieta (1989) earthquakes, Hurricane Andrew (1992), and other natural disasters many small businesses close—never to reopen—because of the inability to reconstruct and service customers and clients in a timely manner. 2. HURRICANE CATASTROPHE POTENTIAL FOR SOUTH CAROLINA I have come here to advocate on behalf of the researchers and this community for an increase in federal support for science and technology research to develop hurricane mitigation and risk management activities. With the predicted upswing in frequency and intensity of hurricanes over the next few decades, and the growing populations living in vulnerable coastal cities, losses from hurricanes will escalate in coastal communities unless we can better understand—and manage—the effects of hurricanes on the built environment; understanding that can only result from federally funded basic wind engineering research. Horry County, South Carolina, has enjoyed impressive growth in its population over the past 15 years, increasing approximately 44% from about 145,000 in 1990 to about 210,000 today. The Grand Strand region is a significant contributor to the economic well-being of the state. However, hurricanes and the threat of hurricanes continue to be detrimental to this tourism-based economy. Comprehensive and sustained efforts to alleviate this threat will be needed to support the regional tourism-recovery program being developed by state and local leaders. The effort should focus on: 1) improving the performance of all buildings, both residential and commercial to maintain functionality of the community, and 2) managing expected losses that will occur. Myrtle Beach will suffer economic losses if the hotels along the Grand Strand are not full of paying guests because of a lack of basic services, infrastructure and because the swimming pools facing the beach are filled with sand. But while I expect hotel buildings would sustain some damage, single family residences are the structures most likely to be damaged significantly. Wind loads on low-rise buildings—wood-framed structures in particular—have received more attention recently because of the large economic losses they have sustained during hurricanes in the last 10 years. Residential construction continues to bear the brunt of damage to the built environment from hurricanes3. The main reason for the poor performance of this building type is that residential structures are typically not engineered to resist loads. Rather, the construction methods have been developed empirically over time. I use the term “engineered structure” to described any structure in which all of its components have been designed in a rational manner, using latest information on the expected loads, and knowledge of the material strengths. Such structures are designed to have a reasonable margin of safety. It is through technology transfer of fundamental research knowledge to the practicing engineers and code officials that the latest knowledge becomes available and improved building methods implemented. Another concern for the Grand Strand region and South Carolina is the performance of the critical facilities during a hurricane. As I will describe later in this testimony, hospitals, evacuation shelters, police and fire stations remain vulnerable to damage and some of these will not be functional during or after a hurricane. Also, mandatory evacuations of hundreds of thousands can be a problem with large coastal populations. Many experts have stated that a fast moving storm could result in large loss of life among persons in traffic jams trying to evacuate4. Based on the above observations, hurricanes cause damage due to one of three reasons: • A hurricane exceeded the design requirements of the community; • Structures were poorly designed. • Structures were poorly constructed. Research performed at the WLTF addresses all three reasons: 1. For what hurricane should a community be designed? The knowledge exists to design and construct structures to resist 100% of the hurricanes 100% of the time; however, no one wants to pay for—or occupy—such structures and, therefore, hurricane damage will occur. The WLTF recognizes that a community’s willingness to rebuild after a hurricane is reflected in building code requirements. Viz., lower requirements would result in frequent rebuilding while higher requirements would require less rebuilding but larger initial costs. Thus, the building codes reflect a community’s willingness to spend money on rebuilding. The WLTF’s research considers varying design and construction requirements according the needs of a community, effectively participating in the development of public policy. 2. Poor design. Students that have participated in the WLTF in their studies have a solid understanding of wind effects on the built environment. The vast majority of these students work as structural engineers after graduation and incorporate what they have learned about wind into their design decisions. 3. Poor construction. Some research at the WLTF studies existing structures so as to identify if they are vulnerable to wind events that are smaller than that specified in the building code, and—if they are deficient—the most efficient manner of rehabilitating structures to resist the required loads. For the above reasons, we need to build stronger buildings and safer homes and businesses, and we need critical facilities that are designed to higher standards so they would survive and be able to serve the community when the community needs them the most. Basic wind engineering research can provide the information necessary to adjust design and construction methods so as to most efficiently increase the resistance of the built environment to hurricanes. 3. AN ENGINEER’S OBSERVATIONS FROM THE 2004 HURRICANES The 2004 hurricane season provided a real-time laboratory for me and other researchers from across the country. WLTF researchers and students set up field experiments in 3 of the 4 storms (Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan) and we conducted post-hurricane investigations to observe and document damage. Our research involved collecting wind speed data and posting it to the World-wide Web and instrumenting houses to measure wind pressures on roofs. Generally, we observed that houses built under the latest codes or deemed-to-comply documents and which were not directly exposed to storm surge did not fail catastrophically. Instead, houses experienced the failure of building envelope components, (roofing, wall cladding, windows, and doors); the same failures that have been occurring for over 50 years. We found that small breaches in the building envelope, especially in the roofing systems and soffits can provide paths for water leakage that results in extensive water damage to the interior walls, ceilings and to building contents. Such minor failures (loss of asphalt shingle and underlayment) to one Pensacola house resulted in water damage to about 80% of all interior finishes on the ceiling and walls. Drying out of water-soaked buildings to prevent mold growth and decay after the envelope has been breached became BIG business after the Florida hurricanes. Some of the less durable materials, insulation, gypsum sheathing and acoustic ceiling tiles cannot be dried out and must be removed and replaced. We observed numerous engineered buildings that suffered little damage and retrofitted non-engineered houses also performed satisfactorily. In Charley, a major success story was the good to excellent performance of newer manufactured homes that were built in accordance with 1994 HUD guidelines. Most of these survived with minimal damage, while adjacent older manufactured homes that did not have wind-resistant construction were destroyed. Failure of building envelope systems had a more dramatic impact on hospitals and critical facilities during these storms. From Mobile, AL to Ft. Meyers, FL, more than a dozen hospitals were damaged or were evacuated due to the effects of the 2004 hurricanes. Charlotte Regional Hospital in Port Charlotte and the Navy Hospital in Pensacola both sustained damage to their roofing systems and windows. The Martin Memorial Medical Center in Stuart, FL lost its elevator penthouse in Hurricane Frances and suffered further roofing damage and water damage from Hurricane Jeanne three weeks later. Even the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston suffered significant damage during a minimal-strength Category 1 Hurricane Garston. In addition, during the 2004 storms, numerous fire stations and evacuation shelters were not able to maintain function throughout or after the storms, including the spectacular failure of the Turner-Arcadia Civic Center in Central Florida that suffered a masonry wall and roof collapse while 1,200 persons were sheltering from Hurricane Charley. The failure of hospitals, critical facilities and evacuation shelters placed additional burdens on the already stretched civic institutions which had to consider removal of sick patients, interruption of emergency protection services (fire stations and police stations). When we recall that most of these facilities did not experience forces near their design levels, we begin to realize the enormity of the problems facing us today. It is my expectation that we would see similar building failures here if a hurricane made landfall in South Carolina. With buildings located among our forested areas, tree damage may also be a factor here. South Carolina needs buildings with structural and building envelope components that are designed and constructed so that they do not fail prematurely in winds below their design wind speed. Unfortunately, as illustrated by Hurricane Hugo, South Carolina should expect significant amounts of damage to occur at wind speeds below design wind speeds. 3.1 Practical Construction and Retrofit Recommendations South Carolina has adopted state-wide, the International Code Council’s (ICC) International Building Code (IBC) 2000 building code. This document provides the most current available information and best-practice design to construct wind-resistant buildings. Provided legislation is not enacted so as to weaken code provisions, the IBC provides appropriate standards for the construction and retrofit of coastal houses. The extensive damage to the building envelope during high wind events can be reduced by providing durable flashing materials in window openings and continuous water barriers in walls and roofs. These recommendations are good practice and should be installed whether in a high wind zone or not. Furthermore, the following table presents options for reducing the vulnerability to wind damage. While some options may at first appear radical, with the right research and benefits/costs analyses it is possible to determine appropriate systems for our changing and growing coastal communities. 4. RESEARCH AT THE WIND LOAD TEST FACILITY Since 1991, research at the Wind Load Test Facility (WLTF) has made great contributions to improving building codes and increasing our understanding of wind forces. The facility was founded with federal funds obtained from FEMA under the Stafford Act as part of the post-Hurricane Hugo mitigation effort. I believe our most important contribution to the state is the role we play in the education and training of future civil engineers. We have produced over 60 engineers who did their Masters and PhD projects at the WLTF. Many of these men and women continue to work as civil engineers within South Carolina. Through their research, our graduates became sensitized to wind engineering issues and to the vulnerability of the state’s infrastructure and they (we) continue to spread the message that we have the know-how to construct hurricane-resistant structures for our communities. We use the atmospheric boundary layer wind tunnel to conduct studies to determine wind loads on residential construction and non-engineered structures. Our current research focus remains on the wind loading of buildings within suburban neighborhoods because so little information is available to designers. Science and technology advances at universities have made significant improvements in the instrumentation and data collection of loads on buildings. Recent research collaborations by Clemson University, Florida University and Florida International University on the Florida Coastal Monitoring Program5 have provided full-scale data in real-time, on near-ground level wind speeds that is helping NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division verify the accuracy of wind speed predictions. In addition, wind pressure data collected from actual residential buildings allows us to determine the loads on the roofs. This work has also provided a means to validate results of wind tunnel studies against full-scale data. We are grateful for the financial and other support of many organizations, including the South Carolina and Florida Sea Grant Consortia, FEMA, NOAA, the Florida Department of Consumer Affairs, the Institute for Business and Home Safety and the South Carolina Department of Insurance. Through our full-scale destructive testing of houses in Horry County before and after installation of hurricane retrofits, researchers were able to determine how much strength was being added to the structure using various retrofit techniques. The houses were made available because they were bought by FEMA following the extreme flooding in Hurricane Floyd. With our wind tunnel testing program and related research, we will develop design methods for critical building components and connections applicable to wood-framed structures. Our missile impact tests have been used to test the impact resistance of lightweight plastic composites and aluminum shutters. Our research remains focused on developing cost-effective methods for reducing damage; the damage mitigations methods should provide the greatest reduction in damage for the least cost. However, the ability to develop methods is limited by the lack of funds for performing the necessary research. While the construction cost of an individual home does not justify extensive wind tunnel testing or engineering input, the design professional needs to have an idea of the wind loads to which a house is susceptible. Knowledge of loads is the basis for sound engineering design. There has as yet been little incentive for the housing industry to undertake the research needed to refine these loads because home builders perceive any modification to design loads as increasing the cost of a house and is, therefore, bad business practice. Therefore, the research at the WLTF provides a valuable and unique contribution to knowledge of hurricane-resistant construction, not only for South Carolina, but for the entire country. The knowledge and information from research performed at the WLTF is used to improve deemed-to-comply building codes by incorporating more engineering knowledge into our houses. Four areas of ongoing WLTF research are: • Understanding the full-scale wind load and validation of wind tunnel techniques. • Condition and risk assessment of critical facilities, evacuation shelters and hospitals. • Load path investigation for wood-framed roofing structures. • Performance-based design criteria for building envelope components. 5. SUMMARY The cost of hurricanes is something that we must bear as a community. It is fitting that the community be involved in the mitigation efforts. The increasing numbers of large, more complex coastal cities and urban centers with unprecedented wealth and industry concentrated in small geographical locations makes it important that serious consideration be given to designs of all construction that are capable to withstand the onslaught of hurricanes. The increasing annual amounts of damage from hurricanes and the inherent danger to millions of residents have created a greater incentive to understand the load regime and performance of residential buildings in suburban neighborhoods. Government funding is needed for the broad generic research that will lead to improved loading information and the subsequent development of improved construction techniques. This improved information would be incorporated in the country’s building codes. However, providing improved building techniques and enforcement of building codes is only part of the solution. A strong political resolve must also exist that will improve the construction and performance of the country’s buildings. In addition to improved building codes, incentives or policies that encourage consumer demand for better-constructed buildings are required. The WLTF recognizes the need for participating in the development of public policy that will promote hurricane understanding. Our coastal communities should be able to rely upon the continued efforts of Clemson’s Wind Load Test Facility and allied testing laboratories and universities to develop the understanding of wind load, knowledge of structural performance of our buildings and to perform the engineering research that leads to cost-effective solutions for improved building performance. Our efforts cannot continue indefinitely without the commitment to support hurricane research and the support of coastal communities and organizations in South Carolina. The good news is that Hope is around the corner! Ongoing related efforts at other (academic, etc.) institutions, and the wind engineering community have led to the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act of 2004 H.R. 3980 being passed by the 108th Congress. When appropriated this bill would increase available annual funding for wind engineering research to about $22 million. By providing research that helps us forecast, prepare for and understand hurricanes, the engineering research community continues to make a valuable contribution to a more sustainable and hurricane-resistant community on the coasts of South Carolina and beyond. The WLTF at Clemson is a resource for South Carolina and the country as it is an internationally recognized center that consistently provides knowledge and information that affects public policy and building codes. An increase in federal funding for wind engineering research would hopefully improve the ability of the WLTF to perform research that would benefit South Carolina and the rest of the country. Biographical Sketch of David O. Prevatt David Prevatt earned his BSc (Honours) degree in civil engineering in 1985 from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and worked there as a structural engineer for seven years. He entered the graduate school at Clemson University where he obtained both his MS (1997) and Ph.D. (1998) degrees. From 1998 through 2004, Dr. Prevatt worked for a Boston-based structural engineering consulting firm and developed his knowledge of building envelope technology and the performance of building envelope systems. In August 2004, Dr. Prevatt joined the faculty at Clemson University where he now teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in civil engineering and directs Clemson’s Wind Load Test Facility. Dr. Prevatt is a professional engineer registered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and in Trinidad and Tobago. He is a also member of the American Association for Wind Engineering (AAWE) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Association of Professional Engineers of Trinidad and Tobago (APETT). www.davidoprevatt.com Footnotes 1Alvarez, Ricardo (ed.) “Proceedings of the National Hurricane Hazard Reduction Act Meeting”, Feb. 2000, International Hurricane Research Center, Florida International University. 2 Sill, B.L. (Clemson Univ); Sparks, P.R. eds. Source: Hurricane Hugo One Year Later, ASCE, 1991, 293p 3 Rosowsky, David; Schiff, Scott, What are our expectations, objectives, and performance requirements for wood structures in high wind regions? Natural Hazards Review, v 4, n 3, August, 2003, p 144-148. 4 Reinhold, Tim (2005) Testimony Given at Disaster Prevention and Prediction Hearing: Severe Storms and Reducing Their Impact on Communities 5 http://users.ce.ufl.edu/~fcmp/
Mr. Jim GandyMeteorologistWLTX-TV
TESTIMONY BY JIM GANDY
SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
SUBCOMMITTEE ON DISASTER PREVENTION AND PREDICTION
August 10, 2005
I am Jim Gandy, chief meteorologist at News19 WLTX in Columbia, South Carolina. I have been a professional meteorologist for 30 years and have worked in Columbia for 21 years. My experience with hurricanes dates back to my childhood in Florida which was one of the reasons I became a meteorologist. I have worked tirelessly as a meteorologist trying to inform and prepare the public about hurricanes for many years. I want to thank Senator Jim DeMint and the committee for inviting me to testify before you today. I hope that the comments that I make will be useful in helping improve preparation for hurricanes along our coast. Further, I wish to state that the testimony I am about to give reflect my opinions and are not necessarily the views of WLTX Television. Let me begin by saying that most communities recognize the danger posed by hurricanes. Most have done an effective job preparing for such events and executing their plans. However, we continue to learn as each storm presents unique dangers. Some lessons from Hurricane Hugo: No other storm affected South Carolina in the Twentieth Century like Hurricane Hugo. It was the strongest hurricane to strike the state since 1893 which produced over 2,000 fatalities in the low country of South Carolina. The state and communities were poorly prepared to deal with destruction on such a large scale. It took years to recover from the experience. It is a fact that a similar storm will strike the state in the future and there are some lessons to be learned from Hugo: 1) There a critical need to address communications in the aftermath of such a storm. Phone service was completely eliminated after Hugo. Only ham operators were functioning and they provided the critical communications link in the storm’s aftermath. Today that would extend to wireless communications as well. A major hurricane is likely to disrupt phone service, cable service, and wireless communications. The forms of communications that are most likely to survive would be ham operators and satellite phones. Therefore, it is imperative that local and state agencies have access to multiple communications platforms. Redundancy is critical to making sure some form of communication survives. 2) A frustration expressed by evacuees during Hugo was the lack of communication between officials and the public. There were many complaints that authorities were not passing along any information. Thus, a public information office needs to be established at either the state or local level to quickly pass information to the media and public. Evacuees are patient when they have information, but they become restless with a lack of information. The most important information to communicate to the public is the extent of damage, the dangers that might be present, and a reasonable estimate as to when they can return to their property. 3) The basic infrastructure needs to be restored as soon as possible after the storm. People returning to their property will need access to food and water quickly to begin the rebuilding effort. 4) Building codes need to be strengthened in all coastal communities. Much of the damage to homes and property comes from flying debris. This is often to result of building disintegrating in the face of strong winds. The state of Florida seems to be the farthest along in light of Hurricane Andrew and the hurricanes in 2004. Some lessons from Hurricane Floyd: Hurricane Floyd resulted in the largest peacetime evacuation in U.S. history. More than three million residents fled their homes due to the potential danger from this storm. The experience was an unpleasant one for many who ultimately did not need to evacuate. Many tell stories of it taking 14 to 15 hours to travel from Myrtle Beach to Columbia. This is normally a three hour trip or less. Of the lessons learned from Floyd these include: 1) There is a need for lane reversals to become effective as soon as the mandatory evacuation is ordered. This usually occurs when the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane warning. States need to prepare to implement the lane reversals as soon as the hurricane watch is issued or twelve hours before the need for mandatory evacuation. People will hesitate to evacuate if it takes 15 hours to make what is normally a 3 hour trip. 2) There is a great need to coordinate evacuations with other states. This is in an effort to avoid evacuating into other evacuation zones. This problem aggravated the evacuations during Floyd causing even longer delays. 3) A plan must be established to make sure there is enough fuel available for people to make the trip inland. Sections of Interstate 16 in Georgia became a parking lot because stations were running out of gas. 4) People need better information on where to go to take shelter. This lack of information often leads to evacuees traveling much longer distances than needed to escape the storm. The media needs better and timelier information on which shelters are open and where they are located. Wireless communications now permit this information to be communicated even when people are not near a television. 5) Senior citizens, those in assisted living areas, and residents of nursing homes need to be evacuated during a hurricane watch. Many of these people may encounter undue hardships if caught in the normal evacuation delays. These people are more likely to need medical help during an emergency. Other lessons for South Carolina: The state of South Carolina now has a detailed plan for lane reversals and the procedures for implementing the plan. This was done as a result of Hurricane Floyd as the request of Governor Mark Sanford. The plan is comprehensive, flexible, and relatively quick to execute. Furthermore, the authority to execute the plan rests solely with the governor’s office. The importance of where to place the authority was highlighted during Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Louisiana gave the authority to order lane reversals to the individual parishes. The order was given in Hurricane Ivan, but it was not coordinated with the state police. This resulted in a massive traffic jam in New Orleans when the mandatory evacuation order was given. It took more than 12 hours for the situation to improve. There were two fatalities in this evacuation and numerous complaints about the delays. These delays were often too great for the elderly trying to evacuate. South Carolina’s plan has been tested in mock simulations, but it has yet to be tested in real-time. I believe that it will test well and that it will ease the delays of a mandatory evacuation. It is my opinion that the state of South Carolina is on the right track. If it has flaws, these may not become apparent until reality strikes. However, the plan will not fail from lack of trying. Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Charley highlighted the need for South Carolina to strengthen its building codes. Both of these hurricanes hit Florida, but they showed what needed to be done and what can be done. Most structures were completely destroyed when Hurricane Andrew struck south Florida in 1992. The resulting surveys convinced the state to strengthen its building codes particularly with respect to manufactured housing. The new standards took effect in 1994 and were put to the test ten years later. Hurricane Charley roared through Punta Gorda in 2004. The manufactured homes built before 1994 were often completely destroyed or heavily damaged. Meanwhile, the post-1994 homes suffered minor damage except in cases where they were hit by disintegrating mobile homes built to pre-1994 standards. The message is clear. Any time you can reduce the amount of flying debris there is a greater chance of reducing the damage. Other Concerns: The population along the South Carolina coast grew by more than 70% from 1970 to 2000. There are now more than one million residents in the coastal counties of South Carolina. However, on any given weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day there are some two to three million people enjoying our coasts. My worst nightmare is trying to evacuate in the face of a major hurricane through the Labor Day weekend. Any problems we have now would be greatly magnified. Hilton Head and Charleston both have an interstate exit to other interstates. No such interstate exist for the Grand Strand. The state has done the best it can under the circumstances. However, there is a critical need for an interstate connecting the Grand Strand with Florence and interstate 20. There is also an increasing threat to coastal communities from global warming. Research indicates that by the middle of this century sea level will be higher and major hurricanes may be stronger. The increase in sea level will come from several sources. As the waters of the Atlantic warm there will be a rise in sea level from thermal expansion. In addition, the melting of glaciers and the thinning of the polar ice will add to the rise of sea level. The sinking of the some land areas near the coast will only add to the rise of sea level. In addition to threats from the rise of sea level, the strength of major hurricanes may increase as the Atlantic waters warm. It has recently been demonstrated that the depth of warm waters impacts the strength of hurricanes. Hurricane Camille moved over a deep and very warm eddy as it approached the Gulf coast. The energy available from this warm pool helped create the giant it became. Finally, state and local agencies need to work better with the media. The media becomes the eyes and ears for the public. It is the fastest means of communicating with the public and most versatile. Most television stations broadcast on many different platforms such as television, cable, internet, radio, telephone, etc. These are the communication experts and they need to be use more effectively. This can be and should be done by better cooperation between the government agencies and media. This concludes my remarks concerning the threat from hurricanes. I wish to again thank Senator DeMint and the committee for allowing me to appear before you today.
Mr. Paul WittenPublic Safety DirectorHorry County Emergency Preparedness Division
Horry County Public Safety Division
Paul D. Whitten, Director
WRITTEN TESTIMONY TO THE U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON
COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION, SUBCOMMITTEE ON
DISASTER PREVENTION AND PREDICTION
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this subcommittee. I truly appreciate being able to share my thoughts on hurricane preparedness in South Carolina, and specifically on the Grand Strand. I also wish to state that these statements are mine alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Horry County Government. We cannot continue to ignore the threat of hurricanes to our coastal communities. A number of factors are combining to create a potentially serious tragedy. These factors include: 1. The growth of our coastal communities. Horry County is experiencing a tremendous surge in population. Many of the new residents come from areas that do not experience hurricanes, and have no practical knowledge about dealing with storms of this nature. In addition, one of the fastest growing demographics in our area is the 55 and older group. 2. An increased period of hurricane activity. Many hurricane experts believe that we are in a period of increased hurricane activity. This year we are already on our 9th named storm, and the National Hurricane Center is projecting this season to see up to 21 total named storms. If we honestly face this reality, we realize we must begin to better prepare our communities. To accomplish this, I believe we must consider the implementing the following actions for the Grand Strand: 1. Develop a Southern Connector. The southern part of the Grand Strand must have an effective evacuation route. We continue to put people at risk by not having a good evacuation route for tens of thousands of our residents living in Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach, the Waccamaw Neck and surrounding areas. Research indicates that too many people fail to evacuate, because they do not want to get caught in huge traffic jams. I believe South Carolina has one of the most effective hurricane plans in the nation. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division provides the Governor with the information and recommendations that guide the state through the evacuation process. And while South Carolina has implemented innovative traffic procedures, such as lane-reversals, and counter-flow operations, the lack of actual road infrastructure still hampers every evacuation. 2. Develop a real Mitigation Program. Historically, the federal government has spent a tremendous amount of money on post-disaster assistance. However, we MUST acknowledge that it is better and more cost-efficient when we emphasize pre-disaster mitigation. We have seen progress in this area with the requirement for local Mitigation Plans, but without funding, the plans are difficult, if not impossible, to implement. In addition, we must be smarter about developing in high-risk areas. Through the National Flood Insurance Program, the federal government spends a tremendous amount of money on repetitive-loss properties. These are properties that are in flood prone areas, and we continually pay to repair these structures, to the point that it would be more cost effective to just acquire and demolish them. 3. Develop a Medical Evacuation Program. One of the biggest unsolved problems facing coastal communities is our inability to adequately manage what I refer to as the medical community evacuation. Horry County has numerous nursing homes, assisted living centers, hospitals, and bed-bound citizens in the potential evacuation zone. The resources just do not exist in the local area to conduct an evacuation of these citizens. We have been working on this issue since Hurricane Bertha in July 1996, and despite efforts to address this concern, I believe we are still not capable of implementing a full evacuation of the medical community. In the event of an evacuation such as the one caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999, would put us in the position of probably leaving some of our most vulnerable citizens in the evacuation zone during a major hurricane. Since Hurricane Hugo hit in September of 1989, South Carolina has made tremendous progress in preparing for the next major hurricane. I am impressed by the dedication of the government agencies and the private organizations that work together in this effort. However, I have seen the impact that that a storm can have on communities. Repairing the community’s infrastructure is an obvious goal of local government, but until the business community is restored, recovery is not complete. Many times, this is a neglected component of the process. In addition, I have been with families that have had their homes and lives destroyed by the impact of major storms. Walking through a house that has been flooded with 6’ of water, you realize the devastation that occurs, both to the structure and the family’s emotions. Even when we have been able to assist them in rebuilding, I can’t help thinking that prevention is a better solution. I learned many years ago that land falling hurricanes have predictable consequences, and predictable is preventable. We must strive to ensure a teamwork approach, including the federal government, state government, local governments, private agencies and individual citizens. This teamwork effort must focus on the entire cycle of disaster, with an emphasis on mitigation. Thank you coming here today and providing the opportunity to here these issues and concerns. Paul Whitten
Mr. Jim CantoreOn-Air MeteorologistThe Weather Channel
Getting People Out Of Harm’s Way
The Weather Channel
Hurricane Facts To this day, there is NO WAY to accurately predict tropical intensification fluctuations We are in an above average phase of hurricane development Inland Flooding is the #1 killer in land-falling tropical systems A strengthening and accelerating land-falling hurricane could be a nightmare People still believe that it can’t happen to them What We’re Asking of People in Harm’s Way… To leave the comfort of their dwelling, and in many cases, everything they have worked for, while seeing images of past hurricanes wreak havoc on the coastline. Not knowing when they can come back to LIFE as they know it. To sit in traffic for hours while a storm may or may not become worthy of leaving in the first place. Having to deal with the enormous psychological stress of evacuation, not to mention what they could find when they return… The Good Enhanced technologies have created greater awareness. EOC meetings seem very timely PIO’s make themselves available to the media The coast has experience (many hurricane landfalls recently) and the video !!! The Bad and The Ugly We run out of gas Plywood, generators, gas cans are always in short supply People still sit in traffic for hours when evacuating Shelter information: where, when they open, etc., often arrives late Media coverage has tripled in 10 years My Recommendations All EOC communications must be strong within EOC and to all media outlets Outbound lanes on interstates and highways must compliment an evacuation order All PIO’s need to be accurate, complete and effective communicators We can not have a disaster within a disaster (Floyd evac, Gasmania 2004) All media need to have a succinct and consistent message People need to know as soon as possible when they can or cannot return Concluding statement There has never been a perfect forecast. State of the art technology gives us better lead time to prepare for natural disasters. Strong support for these advances is essential. If (we) effectively communicate our message and have the necessities in place for a stressed community to process, prepare, and protect themselves and their families, I see the day that hurricane evacuation goes as smooth as a school fire drill.