FIU honored as change agent, leader in hurricane preparedness

Erik Salna with crew NOAA G-IV Hurricane Hunter Jet.

Erik Salna (pictured in the middle) with crew NOAA G-IV Hurricane Hunter Jet.


When a hurricane is barreling down on you, it’s too late to prepare.

Erik Salna has dedicated his career to educating the South Florida community, readying them to survive the next storm before it’s too late. His work and FIU’s role in the Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) program is being honored this month – National Preparedness Month –  by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service office in Miami.

Salna, associate director at FIU’s Extreme Events Institute (EEI) and International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC), is being recognized as an exemplary WRN Ambassador, for going above and beyond to help the university and South Florida community prepare for extreme weather events.  

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-12-17-02-pm“NOAA is proud to work with Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador organizations to build ready, responsive and resilient communities to extreme weather,” says Douglas Hilderbrand, Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador Lead at the National Weather Service. “Erik Salna, representing Florida International University, has infused his passion, expertise and imagination into the initiative to help educate people about weather threats.”

The local National Weather Service office noted that Salna has served as a “change agent and leader” for improved hurricane safety and will be awarded a certificate to honor his efforts.

“My passion is meteorology,” says Salna, who has more than 25 years of experience as a broadcast meteorologist on TV. “I’m extremely passionate about the science of meteorology, but I’m also passionate about how we can prepare and be safe from storms. Beyond the science, we need to survive the next storm. Whatever we can do to get the word out and educate people about that, I think it’s very important.”

Salna often partners with NOAA on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus for outreach events that include hosting hurricane awareness tours of FIU’s Wall of Wind (the nation’s only university research facility capable of simulating a Category 5 hurricane) – and mitigation and preparedness events such as Eye of the Storm at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science, funded by the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

U.S. Air Force Reserve WC-130 J Hurricane Hunter.

U.S. Air Force Reserve WC-130 J Hurricane Hunter.

“Over the past several years, Erik Salna’s efforts to promote weather awareness and a weather-ready community in South Florida has been nothing short of outstanding, illustrating how developing partnerships in both the public and private sector can have a positive impact in our community,” says Pablo Santos, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Miami.

Rich Olson, director of EEI and IHRC, adds: “This is a perfect example of federal-state-university cooperation to improve community safety in extreme events.”

In 2016, Salna was invited to participate in the NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour with stops in five Gulf Coast cities; he shared tips with students, media and community members on how to protect their homes and stay safe. Representing FIU, Salna is given the rare opportunity to fly on a NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft for the entire tour.

A solution center for the community, FIU is increasingly garnering more and more recognition for its hurricane preparedness work. In 2015, the Wall of Wind – located at the Engineering Center, home to the College of Engineering and Computing – earned the Natural Hazards Engineering Research designation as one of seven Experimental Facility labs.