MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Researchers at WVU are attempting to determine if they can predict where flooding will occur in hurricane-afflicted areas in advance of the hurricane.
WVU Associate Professor Dr. Omar Abdul Aziz wants to build a new forecast model that could forecast whether certain coastal areas would be affected by floods after a hurricane passes. The goal is to better prepare for flooding that might not be expected due to storm proximity.
“It brings so much moisture that when it pours down, your get freshwater flooding,” Aziz said on WAJR-Clarksburg’s “The Gary Bowden Show” this week. “Like in Florence or in Harvey, you didn’t get a lot of storm surge flooding, you got more of freshwater flooding. In particular in Florence, you got freshwater flooding that made storm surge flooding worse.”
Florence caused significant damage in the Carolinas last month. In 2017, Harvey was a category 4 hurricane that inflicted nearly $125 billion in damage after ravaging the Houston metropolitan area in 2017.
According to Aziz, the forecast model uses information from floodwaters during and after storms to determine how big a storm has to be in order to cause a certain amount of flooding in areas. The model will show that any storm that is considered slow building and can contain a lot of moisture can play a big part in a potential flood.
“Because of the low pressure, it sucks a lot of moisture with it,” he said. “So what happens is that when it comes over land, it’s not facing warm-ward anymore it, it’s going to cool down and it’s going to bring a lot of rainfall.”
Even though the severity of the post-hurricane floods vary, recent floods in the Carolinas after the effects of Hurricane Florence have been used as examples of how a storm can affect an area days after the “worst part” of the storm passes. These numbers were increased further by the after effects of Hurricane Michael — showing coastal area vulnerability.
Aziz said these recent examples show how badly an area can be affected depending on it’s layout.
“We still have Florence poured rainfall water in the Carolinas,” he said. “I saw in the Weather Channel a day or two ago, and it became just worse when Hurricane Michael brought more rainfall into the area.”
As a result of these findings, and other information, Aziz has been active across the country in helping people better prepare for these floods. Along with his work in the Carolinas, he’s also worked in the Gulf Coast and in parts of Texas — all of which are very vulnerable to floods in the event of a hurricane in the area.
“Ideally I want to build models for the entire hurricane coast,” Aziz said. “I mean Gulf Coast all the way through the East Cost.”
Story by Joe Nelson