Tuesday, April 15, 2014

URSP Student Amelia Martin Analyzes Hurricane Flood Risks in the U.S. National Capital Region

I have always had an interest in how the role of government can be used to improve people’s lives, but we often disregard the part civil engineers play in that process. So when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, many politicians and concerned citizens were asking questions. Especially in the Washington DC area, people were asking what would have happened if Hurricane Sandy had made a greater impact on the capital region. I was also concerned, but I quickly realized that was a question I could investigate as a civil engineer. While we may not be able to “answer” this question, we can start to think about disaster preparedness in the National Capital Region and how we can make better choices to improve people’s lives.

This project has been instrumental in shaping my long-term goals and interests, making me more invested in coastal engineering and environmental issues. As a graduating senior, I have been hoping to find a career path that would allow me to continue risk assessment and hydrology studies in the greater DC area. While I do have an interest in gaining real-world experience, I hope to return to graduate school and further my research on coastal engineering. Undoubtedly, my research has helped me develop more expertise and interest in my field.

On a weekly basis, I spend most of my time at the computer. Whether I am learning a new kind of software, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s HAZUS software, or hunting down datasets to use for my project, I’m often gaining an operational knowledge of new tools and applying them. This week I have been working with SMS surface water modeling software. The software company provides tutorials for different applications within SMS and I have been completing their ADCIRC tutorial. This application allows me to predict storm surge in coastal areas and determine possible flood depths. From there, I can use other software to predict building damages in the DC area based on the level of flooding. Determining at-risk areas is just the first step in designing better policies to address flooding risks in the region.