Hurricane Matthew Coverage

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UNC-Chapel Hill experts available to discuss storm-related issues


As much of the East Coast is feeling the effects of Hurricane Matthew, UNC-Chapel Hill researchers and faculty are among those helping communities deal with the aftermath. University experts are available to discuss the storm’s effects including flooding-related issues, water quality, possible beach erosion and the psychological impact on people living along the coast.


Storm Aftermath & Recovery



Gavin Smith is the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) and also a research professor in Carolina’s department of city and regional planning. In both roles, part of his focus is to address the threats and unique challenges facing communities across the U.S. due to natural disasters and climate change. Smith also advises other nations, states and local governments about disaster recovery and risk reduction. Following Hurricane Katrina he served as director for the Mississippi Governor’s Office of Recovery and Renewal and also testified before Congress twice, providing recommendations for improving post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. Smith worked with Governor Hunt after Hurricane Floyd to develop more than 20 state programs addressing local recovery needs and he also served as assistant director of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management. In addition to recovery and response, he can talk about Hurricanes Matthew and Floyd and the similarities between the two, in particular the problems involving flooding


Other recovery angles he can discuss: The role of state and local leadership in recovery and also the government’s ability to incorporate and implement precautionary measures; why some communities are more vulnerable to disasters than others and transitioning from immediate response to long-term recovery.


The Psychological Impact


untitled2Joanne Caye can discuss the psychological impact of natural disasters. Over the course of her career, Caye has trained countless social workers who help families that have experienced trauma and lived through hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. She is an adjunct professor in the UNC School of Social Work and she’s also the co-author of the book, When Their World Falls Apart: Helping Families and Children Manage the Effects of Disaster. She can discuss the importance of immediate mental health assistance; the anxiety of an impending storm or natural disaster and how just anticipating a threat that big, even if in the end there is no actual damage or injury, can cause psychological problems; how repeated exposure to storms like Hurricane Matthew can increase the incidence of post traumatic stress and also how communities and families can cope following natural disasters.


Water Quality



Hans Paerl is a professor of marine anduntitled3 environmental sciences. His area of expertise in regard to water quality is the harmful effect of toxic algae for both people and aquatic ecosystems. As we saw after Hurricane Floyd, contaminated water is prime breeding ground for algal blooms. Paerl can discuss the long-term impact of these blooms, including fish kills, as well as the different types of algae and the dangers, ranging from neurological problems to paralysis, posed by each. Paerl can also discuss the similarities between previous storms to hit the East Coast, such as Hurricane Floyd.


Recent Media Coverage:






Greg Characklis can discuss water accessibility and availability in both rural and urban communities. Characklis is a professor of environment sciences and engineering and also the director for The Center for Watershed Science and Management. He can also address the various ways communities can manage water supplies and treatment systems in the days following a natural disaster.







untitled9Rachel Noble is a distinguished professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and also the Morehead City field site director of the Institute for the Environment. She can discuss water and the various contaminants that might be found in lakes and rivers following a storm like Hurricane Matthew. Water quality is especially a concern with flooding and also when the ground is oversaturated. Noble can discuss how those situations put stress on already taxed waste treatment systems and other infrastructure and how that also leads to water contamination.









Tony Rodriguez is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute for Marine Sciences. He is available to talk about the overall, immediate effect of intense storms and weather conditions as they pertain to erosion. Rodriquez can further discuss the compounding factorsover time and just how problematic storm-related erosion can become after repeated exposure to intense weather systems and an increase in sea levels.








Laura Moore is an associate professor in the department of geological sciences. She is also the director of the Coastal Environmental Change Lab (CECL). Moore can discuss Hurricane Matthew’s impact on the coastal environment, including the immediate and long-term effects of extreme water levels and dune erosion.







Storm Surge Predictions




untitled7Rick Luettich is the director for UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute for Marine Sciences in Morehead City, NC. He is on the front lines when it comes to predicting a storm’s potential force. FEMA as well as state and local leaders use Luettich’s data and analysis as they assess the risk factors and determine a course of action for their communities. He is one of the lead developers of ADCIRC, a system of computer programs used to predict storm surge and flooding. Those prediction models are updated

every six hours and the most recent can be found here.image017


Luettich’s research and data has also been used to design protection systems around New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and also New York and New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy. He is also the lead investigator of the Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Resilience Center.





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About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 77 bachelor’s, 113 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty – including two Nobel laureates – staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s more than 317,000 alumni live in all 50 states and 150 countries. More than 167,000 live in North Carolina.



Communications and Public Affairs contact: Jeni Cook, (919) 962-2091,