FIU, National Hurricane Center join forces to improve storm surge forecasting in Haiti and Dominican Republic

FIU and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center (NOAA-NHC) will develop a storm surge database for Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

NOAA has awarded $300,000 to FIU’s Extreme Events Institute and its International Hurricane Research Center to develop and implement the program, which is designed to help government agencies make informed decisions when hurricanes approach, including large-scale evacuations.

Hispaniola-021In close coordination with the NHC, the project is led by principal investigator Keqi Zhang of FIU’s Department of Earth and Environment in the College of Arts & Sciences.

“Professor Zhang’s storm surge work is cutting edge and part of both FIU’s and the NHC’s international outreach efforts for at-risk areas and countries,” said Richard Olson, director of the Extreme Events Institute.

To coordinate with the joint project, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) has awarded an additional $70,000 to the university’s Disaster Risk Reduction program, which will establish a baseline assessment of community capabilities for storm surge planning, preparedness, and emergency response in a particularly at-risk area shared by the two countries.

When the entire project is complete, the researchers hope it will serve as a model for wider Caribbean coastal use. The ultimate goal of the project is to save lives, putting the best information in the hands of governments to better help their citizens. The grant announcement comes two weeks after Hurricane Joaquin pummeled the central Bahamas, serving as further validation for the need of improved forecasting for storm surge.