UNC-Chapel Hill experts available to discuss impact of Hurricanes

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For Immediate Use


UNC-Chapel Hill experts available to discuss impact of Hurricanes 


UNC-Chapel Hill researchers and faculty are among those helping communities deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the impending threat of Hurricane Irma. University experts are available to discuss the storm’s effects including flooding-related issues, water quality and possible beach erosion.


If you would like to schedule an interview with one of our experts contact our media relations team at mediarelations@unc.edu or call our media line at (919) 445-8555.


Storm Surge Predictions



Rick 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.


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.


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.


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.

Flood Waters & Infrastructure


Bill Gentry is a lecturer in Health Policy and Management in UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. An expert in disaster management and public health leadership, Gentry also directs the Department of Health Policy and Management master’s and certificate programs. He can discuss water rescue situations, the hazards of flood waters to public health and the long-term problems hurricanes and flooding can create for infrastructure. Gentry can also discuss caring for animals during 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. You can hear more about Paerl’s research and how hurricanes impact water quality in this recent episode of UNC- Chapel Hill’s podcast, Well Said.






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 Harvey. 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.






Carter Smith is a doctoral student at the UNC Institute for Marine Sciences. She studies the benefits of living shorelines, an alternative to seawalls, as a solution to combat erosion and property loss during storms. Living shorelines are both more cost effective than seawalls in the long-term, and are ecologically more sustainable. Smith can discuss how homeowners and property managers can better protect coastal properties from hurricanes.








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, 111 master’s, 65 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty, 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 322,000 alumni live in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 165 countries. More than 175,000 live in North Carolina.