Tip Sheet: University of Virginia Experts for 2008 Hurricane Season


Hurricane Effects on Coastal Areas

Jay Zieman, chairman of the Department of Environmental Sciences, specializes in coastal zone ecology and is a wealth of information about the effects of major storms on coastal areas. His expertise includes coastal development and how it alters the natural vegetation and barrier islands that would normally protect coastlines; flooding, erosion and problems of terrestrial pollution entering the water supply. He is well-acquainted with the hurricane-vulnerable northern Gulf of Mexico region, having grown up in Mobile, Ala. and attended undergraduate school at Tulane University in New Orleans.

"Given the current model predictions, anyone who lives from Mobile to New Orleans to Galveston should be very concerned about Hurricane Gustav, and should be following it closely and developing an evacuation plan," Zieman said. "This storm has the potential to become a very destructive hurricane. The Gulf of Mexico is very warm this year, creating conditions that are favorable to strong hurricane development. Gustav, arriving near the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, could follow a similar path. The levee system along Lake Pontchartrain is still vulnerable to failure, and the open coastline of Mississippi and Alabama is as vulnerable as it was before Katrina."

Contact: Jay Zieman, professor of environmental sciences: office 434-924-0570; home 434-831-4730; cell 434-981-8880; jcz@virginia.edu

Dealing With Storm Fear and Trauma

Bethany Teachman, assistant professor of psychology, specializes in treatment for people with an assortment of phobias, including fear of natural disasters. She helps people to make reasonable assessments of risk by realistically evaluating a situation that is causing anxiety. She trains people to directly face their fears and the reasons they are having them.

"During a natural disaster such as a hurricane, it is important to take advantage of the social support systems that are already in place in the community, and to find ways to normalize the feelings of anxiety you are experiencing," Teachman said.

Contact: Bethany Teachman, associate professor of psychology: office 434-924-0676 or 434-982-4750; home 434-964-1865; cell 434-806-6460; bat5x@virginia.edu

Architecture and City Planning

William Morrish, professor of architecture, landscape architecture and urban and environmental planning, is an expert on cities and infrastructure as a cultural landscape. He has helped with the research and planning following earthquakes in Los Angeles, the 1993 Mississippi River flood and the World Trade Center disaster. After Hurricane Katrina, Morrish worked as part of a 50-member Urban Land Institute initiative to conduct extensive research and evaluation of the catastrophe in New Orleans.

"This next hurricane makes vivid the issue that American cities can no longer be left vulnerable to climatic changes because of aging and outdated infrastructure," Morrish said. "This is the lesson of rebuilding New Orleans that can be transferred to drought-burdened Los Angeles, or the New York City region operating upon an obsolete power grid."

Contact: William Morrish, professor of architecture, landscape architecture and urban and environmental planning: office 434-924-6446; cell 434-284-3318; wm2c@virginia.edu

Affects on prices, distribution

Robert E. Spekman, professor of business administration, can discuss a hurricane’s potential effect on prices, distribution of goods and "buffer stock" – excess inventory held in anticipation of outages or disruptions to supply chains.

"It runs counter to lean thinking, but could be useful under certain conditions," he said.

Contact: Robert E. Spekman, professor of businees administration: office 434-924-4860; home 434-971-8071: cell 434-825-3504; spekmanr@virginia.edu

Hurricanes and insurance

Kenneth Abraham, professor of law, can discuss homeowners' insurance coverage for hurricane-related damage. He is one of the nation's leading scholars and teachers in the fields of tort and insurance law. For more than two decades, Abraham has served as a consulting counsel and as an expert witness in a variety of major insurance coverage cases, involving directors and officers liability, environmental cleanup liability, toxic tort, products liability and property insurance claims.

Contact: Kenneth Abraham, professor of law: office 434-924-3616; home 434-295-6447; ksa@virginia.edu

Public Health and Storms

Dr. Richard L. Guerrant, an infectious disease specialist, has extensive, real-world experience treating patients in disaster areas following major storms. He can discuss the diseases that may result from contaminated drinking water and their effects on people, particularly children and the elderly. He also can talk about the challenges of getting medicine and supplies to people in devastated areas. Dr. Guerrant is a highly articulate, passionate speaker and an excellent interviewee.

Contact: Richard Guerrant, director, Center for Global Health: office 434-924-5242 or rlg9a@virginia.edu

Trauma and children

Peter Sheras, a clinical psychologist specializing in adolescent relationships, family relationships and stress, can discuss the effects trauma or disasters such as hurricanes can have on children.

Peter Sheras, professor of education: office 434-924-0795; home 434-973-3536; pls@virginia.edu

The Nature of Hurricanes

Jerry Stenger, a research scientist in the University of Virginia Climatology Office, can discuss weather, long-term climate, hurricane tracking and trends, why some storms are more powerful than others, and what might be expected of the remaining 2008 hurricane season.

"A hurricane is a giant heat engine, drawing its strength from warm waters, which is why we see the season intensify in late summer and early fall when ocean temperatures are highest. This gives the storms a higher potential for destruction if they make landfall," he said.

"There is about a 20- to 40-year cycle to sea surface temperatures and to hurricane activity in the Atlantic. The 1970s and 1980s were a relatively mild period. Now it appears we are entering a time of larger and more frequent storms; however, the overall trend to higher sea surface temperatures could make this a longer-lasting situation."

Jerry Stenger, U.Va. Climatology Office: 434-924-7761 or pjs2i@virginia.edu

To download an audio clip or view video of Jerry Stenger discussing hurricanes, click here.