With Hurricane Florence making landfall on the U.S. East Coast this weekend, images of 2017’s autumn come to mind, when storms similarly wreaked havoc in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.
ASCE News contacted ASCE members in those areas still recovering from last year’s hurricanes and asked them to offer advice or any lessons learned for civil engineers now in the path of Florence.
As Houston-area resident and former ASCE President Wayne Klotz noted: “Do not delay, and do not be bashful. Civil engineers play a critical role in the resilience of our communities.”
Here’s what they had to say:
Jennifer M. Aponte Rivera
A.M.ASCE, project manager, Federal Highway Administration, Washington, DC
As a longtime resident of Puerto Rico and now the East Coast, I would like to encourage civil engineers to take an active part in their communities and key agencies to provide them expertise and guidance during hurricane season.
Also, consider doing outreach to the communities to educate them about the importance of evacuating in time to avoid deaths directly associated with the event.
Another important aspect to contemplate for future construction projects is to take the paths of possible future hurricanes into consideration from the start and invest in infrastructure that endures in the long term.
In situations where infrastructure has withstood a hurricane, encourage assessments and rehabilitation that implement building codes that are resilient to the climatic changes.
P.E., D.WRE, F.EWRI, ENV SP, Pres.09.ASCE, former ASCE president, president of the Coastal Water Authority, and owner of Klotz Strategies in Katy, TX
Civil engineers not only should, but they must engage immediately following a hurricane. We have expertise that is essential to getting your community up and operating.
First, assess your own situation. Make certain that your family is safe and has a place to ride out the recovery. If your home was damaged, please take care of it. We have enough civil engineers to cover public facilities while you deal with your own challenges.
Second, check in with your employer’s emergency procedures network. People care about you, and your employer needs to verify the status of everybody.
Next, check in with your clients. Call them or just show up. Offer to assist them in getting water or wastewater plants back in operation. If they have facilities that are flooded, assist them in restarting operations in another location. Provide a work crew to salvage critical equipment or begin discarding flooded materials. Inspect critical bridges or buildings that flooded and give advice on how to restore the facility to operation. Begin preparing a list of all damaged facilities that need to be repaired or replaced. Go into known areas that flood and begin collecting data on high water marks. Document everything that you do so that the client can request financial assistance when it becomes available.
Another important task that you can perform is to be a source of credible information. Talk to the press. Answer questions from your friends. After a disaster, information is a valuable commodity.
Do not delay, and do not be bashful. Civil engineers play a critical role in the resilience of our communities.
Andrés A. Salazar
Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, M.ASCE, principal managing director of water resources engineering, Walter P. Moore, member of ASCE Texas Section’s Task Committee on Post-Hurricane Harvey Recommendations
My advice is for the aftermath and recovery. Engineers will be extremely busy as there will be many fronts to cover and work to get back to normal. There will be flood damage, wind damage, mobility issues, power loss, water and wastewater issues, etc.
Hundreds of facilities will need to be evaluated and come back online. I encourage you to have a plan with local officials or private owners for a quick recovery for assessment and startup.
Put the community first ahead of the marketing or business opportunities. You can also volunteer as a citizen for recovery and rescue efforts. Houston is very grateful for all volunteers who came in boats last year to help.
P.E., CFM, M.ASCE, former ASCE Texas Section and Houston Branch president, as well as a Region Governor, and longtime (now retired) flood specialist
My thoughts for civil engineers in the areas impacted by Hurricane Florence:
1. Get yourself and family prepared and out of harm’s way.
2. Anticipate the needs that your state, county, city, or other entity might have (flooding, water, wastewater, roadways, traffic signals, power lines) and work with your employer to be there to help those impacted.
3. Take lots of photos of the problems you see.
4. Take copies of infrastructure plans, specs, maps, and studies and put them on flash drives when you go help.
5. Reach out to all you can by phone, email, or text to tell them you are ready to help
6. Go help where you can.
7. Encourage those you know to also go help.
8. Remember the recovery effort will take up to a year or longer, so there will be time for anyone to help.
9. Learn from the storm and help communities develop improved infrastructure and better resilience plans to deal with future hurricanes or emergencies.