The early lessons of Katrina are that preparedness and education about hurricanes are invaluable defensive tools in fighting (or fleeing) natural disasters. MIT Sea Grant's newly launched hurricane web site provides information about planning and risk, as well as news about hurricane-related research being conducted by MIT experts such as Professor Kerry Emmanuel of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.
While the below sea-level phenomenon of New Orleans is not mirrored in New England, other Gulf Coast conditions are similar. And with hurricanes increasing in power and more people living in coastal areas, our vulnerability also increases. What to do?
One option is to think about risks when choosing where to live. A link from the hurricane site lets users access online hazard maps that indicate the flood hazard areas and paths of past hurricanes.
Better preparation also comes through research. With funding from MIT Sea Grant, Nick Makris, associate professor in MIT's Center for Ocean Engineering, has been exploring how hydrophones deployed in the ocean might gather acoustic data and provide critical information about the strength of hurricanes. Improved assessments of a hurricane's power can mean avoiding unnecessary evacuations and ensuring evacuation when a deadly storm threatens.
For more information, visit web.mit.edu/seagrant/hurricanes/mitsghurricanes.html.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 28, 2005 (download PDF).