Campus & Community

As Hermine Threatens, Stevens Helps Predict and Prepare

Davidson Lab team assisting Port Authority, Hoboken crisis teams with predictions, expertise

Stevens professor & Davidson Laboratory director Alan Blumberg in Port Authority's New Jersey emergency command center during Tropical Storm Hermine
Stevens professor & Davidson Laboratory director Alan Blumberg in Port Authority's New Jersey emergency command center during Tropical Storm Hermine

While Tropical Storm Hermine lingers off the Eastern Seaboard, threatening the Jersey Shore and Long Island with high winds, waves and flooding storm surges, a team from Stevens Institute of Technology is on hand to help predict its effects and prepare communities for evacuations and other emergency measures.

Alan Blumberg, director of Stevens' Davidson Laboratory, professor Nickitas Georgas and research engineer Firas Saleh all took 12-hour shifts in the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey's (PANYNJ) emergency command center in Jersey City to provide expertise as the powerful storm slowly moved northward. The team also provided the city of Hoboken with key weather and flood updates.

"We're glad to serve the Port Authority, the city of Hoboken and the public in this way," said Blumberg. "Our Stevens forecast systems pretty well predicted the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Sandy beforehand, and Hermine is predicted to result in significant — although not Sandy-sized — surge and flood events along the coast of New Jersey. Our Stevens forecasts do not predict any flooding in the metro area, fortunately; still, we urge calm and caution as the system moves into and through the region, and Stevens will continue to contribute to preparations and decisions in any way we can."

Stevens maintains a dedicated supercomputer that powers its proprietary Stevens Flood Advisory System (SFAS), which is part of the National Weather Service's official public information flow for New York Harbor flood events.

Davidson Laboratory and Facebook also recently initiated a so-called "citizen science project," during which local residents contribute raw data in the form of public photographs, videos and stories of extreme weather and flooding events to create maps of conditions as they occur. Using this cumulative, crowd-sourced data, Davidson Laboratory researchers hope to improve confidence in what various models forecast about the actual, recorded impacts of significant local rainfalls and storm surges.

Currently, Dr. Blumberg and Davidson Laboartory researchers are launching a major research and education initiative, Coastal Urban Resilience Engineering and Science (CURES) that emphasizes the ways in which engineering, science and technology are integral to planning and managing resilient cities for the 21st century, in an effort to keep communities safe.  For more about CURES and the Davidson Laboratory at Stevens, please visit the CURES Initiative.