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Joseph W. Swaykos (joe.swaykos@usm.edu)

University of Southern Mississippi – Center of Higher Learning Stennis Space Center, MS

During and following Hurricane Katrina it was obvious that citizens along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the greater New Orleans area had a difficult time understanding what storm surge was and its potentially deadly consequences. Media reports of 10 feet of storm surge often fell on deaf ears as did warnings such as “If you live in flood zone A or B you should evacuate. The general public often viewed a 10 foot storm surge as large waves breaking on the beach. Many of us were not sure of what, if any, flood zone we lived in. As a result, poor evacuation decisions were made.

The University of Southern Mississippi’s Center of Higher Learning is the home of a state of the art immersive visualization center. Since the storm the visualization center has created a decision support tool that will help citizens make better informed evacuation decisions in the future. The “Vis Center” has developed a prototype system that will be web enabled which will depict expected flood levels in given communities caused by natural or man made storm surge/flooding events. The concept will be demonstrated using low resolution LIDAR imagery and simulated rising water levels which reach the flood levels recorded after Katrina. Also demonstrated will be high resolution topography and digital photography of Gulfport Mississippi with the Katrina flood levels superimposed. The result is an easy to understand “picture” that leaves no doubt in one’s mind as to potential impact of anticipated flood waters.

In addition to being a useful tool for home and business owners, the tool can also be used by emergency planners and responders for training and planning. It is envisioned that the output form various storm surge models (e.g. SLOSH, ADCIRC) could be run for various storm track and intensity scenarios with the time series output overlaid on high resolution topography.

The storm surge/flooding disaster mitigation tool can be used in any area that is threatened by storm surge and/or flooding as a result of any natural (e.g. hurricane, tsunami) or man made (e.g. dam or levee breaching) disaster. The Center of Higher Learning has received eleven letters of endorsement from Mississippi political, emergency response, and economic development leaders for funding and continued development of this tool.

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