Young Atlanta Civil Engineer Puts ‘New Face’ on Superstorm Sandy Disaster Recovery

January 17, 2014

This is the third in a series to introduce ASCE’s New Faces of Civil Engineering 2014. Today’s civil engineers confront the challenge of mixing creativity, science, and knowledge; something that not everyone can do. Today, read about Lanelle Ezzard.

Lanelle EzzardOne year after Superstorm Sandy ripped through New York State and Long Island, damaging approximately 650,000 structures throughout the region, thousands of area residents are still dealing with insurance companies, toiling through red tape, and waiting for aid from the federal government.

Assigned to help area communities with their recovery and rebuilding efforts was Lanelle Ezzard, CFM, A.M.ASCE, an engineer with the Water Resource Group in the Atlanta, Georgia office of AECOM. Beginning in January 2012, Ezzard left her Atlanta home and lived in a hotel on Long Island to work within the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance Grant Program. Her efforts prompted a letter from the local FEMA project manager, thanking her for an outstanding performance and writing that “Lanelle is the epitome of professionalism that all managers seek.”

“I had never worked disaster recovery before and this was a very stressful time,” says Ezzard, whose job with AECOM is primarily to perform hydrologic and hydraulic modeling. “But that is just the nature of what is going on; there are these communities that were turned totally upside down and you are there to help restore order.”

“I am really proud of helping to formulate grants so that municipalities could get reimbursement for their recovery projects, whether it was reconstructing buildings, repair to park installations, or for emergency services.”

At first Ezzard thought that she would only be there two or three months, but she ended up staying for nine.

“The recovery process was still not complete when I left a few months ago,” notes Ezzard, a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. “Once I started working with the local governments and saw how difficult it can be in navigating the grant process, I definitely wanted to stay and see my projects through to the end, which I did.”

Aside from the FEMA recovery project on Long Island, Ezzard is also involved with FEMA’s Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning (Risk MAP) Program, which aims to deliver quality data that will increase public awareness and lead to actions that reduce risk to life and property as a result of flooding. Her work for the program has included performing hydrologic and hydraulic modeling in several Southeastern states to identify flooding associated with flood risk.

Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, and being surrounded by water and bridges provided the inspiration for Ezzard to become a civil engineer.

“As a youth, I didn’t realize the numerous roles engineers played in either of these features, but once I learned I was sold. Along with a high school guidance counselor’s empowering words, I decided to pursue civil engineering.”

Being a “Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech,” Ezzard was involved in many volunteer activities in school including Tech Beautification Day; recruitment team member and tour guide for the Georgia Tech Office of Undergraduate Admissions; a mentor at the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing; an arts committee chair with the Student Center Programs Council; an SAT prep coordinator with the African American Student Union; and a new student orientation cabinet member with the Office of Success Programs.

“I was pretty surprised, excited, and very grateful to be one of the New Faces of Civil Engineering,” says Ezzard, who graduated from Georgia Tech in 2010 and is a member of the ASCE Georgia Section’s Younger Member Forum. “It’s nice to be recognized when you know that you work hard and especially when it highlights your potential to do even more.”

Next in the series, read about Julia Bower Green

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