Jennifer Ronk, HARC Research Scientist, participated on the Houston Climate Justice Roundtable. The event was free and open to the public.
Analysis of the Hurricane Ike Storm Surge and Waves
The wind and water impacts of Hurricane Ike had a substantial effect on people, structures, and natural resources around Galveston Bay. A survey by the Harris County Housing Authority concluded that Ike damaged more than 50% of the homes in the county and left more than 18,000 residential units uninhabitable. The monetary loss for residential property in the county was estimated at $8.2 billion.
About one third of the total cost of damage was caused by storm surge and waves. Storm surge typically causes flooding damage to property as water rises at a relatively slow rate of 0.5 to 2 feet per hour. Storm surge also enables larger waves, which in turn cause high impact and sudden damage to structures.
The project is led by Dr. Birnur Guven, Research Scientist in Environmental Modeling, and Dr. Jim Lester, President of HARC. The project team will evaluate the effect of creating offshore breakwater islands to reduce some of the destructive force of the storm-related waves. The proposed islands would incorporate natural areas and wildlife habitat, with sand and vegetation on the top and a more resilient structure at the bottom to stand against the force of hurricane waves and surge.
The team will use the SLOSH model, developed by the National Weather Service, to test a range of scenarios with different island height and distances from the shore. After the optimal combination of these scenarios is determined, HARC will partner with the UT Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences to run the ADCIRC model to compute the effects of breakwaters on wave heights along the Harris County coastline.
HARC is also partnering with the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores at Texas A&M University at Galveston to conduct a survey of residents of coastal communities to assess public preferences on alternative mitigation strategies for storm-related waves. HARC will then meet with stakeholders to obtain their input on the results of model runs and the public survey before making final recommendations to Harris County.