Disasters, post-disasters, resilience, recovery, pollution, public health | Homeland Security Newswire

Hurricane responseNew technology aids hurricane response

By Kylie Foy

Published 16 March 2018

The 2017 hurricane season was catastrophic. Hurricane Harvey, plaguing Texas with floods, was followed quickly by Irma, whose winds battered Florida and the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria then raged upon Puerto Rico and other islands already reeling from previous storms. In the buildup and aftermath, Lincoln Laboratory quickly assembled teams and technology to aid federal agencies in managing these disasters. Lincoln Laboratory staff deployed tools to help FEMA plan evacuations, monitor storms, and assess the damage wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

The 2017 hurricane season was catastrophic. Hurricane Harvey, plaguing Texas with floods, was followed quickly by Irma, whose winds battered Florida and the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria then raged upon Puerto Rico and other islands already reeling from previous storms. In the buildup and aftermath, Lincoln Laboratory quickly assembled teams and technology to aid federal agencies in managing these disasters. 

As Harvey approached Texas, Laboratory staff traveled to the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) in Washington, D.C., to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies prepare for landfall on 25 August. Personnel there were using a new Laboratory-developed hurricane evacuation decision platform called HURREVAC-eXtended (HV-X). The system incorporates hurricane forecasts, current weather conditions, and embedded data analytics in a simple user interface that enables emergency managers to evaluate evacuation scenarios and make recommendations to FEMA leadership.

The Laboratory began work on hurricane planning and evacuation tools in 2014 under funding from the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T). The initial work to understand the technology gaps in the existing National Hurricane Program suite of hurricane tools led to the development of the HV-X prototype.

Although HV-X is still a prototype, Laboratory staff were able to maintain 24/7 operations of the system during the disasters. This enabled the NRCC and regional FEMA staff to visualize the storm forecast and impacts through their browser for anywhere, anytime operations. In addition, the DHS S&T investment enabled the visualization of other data analytics that provided situational awareness on business open/close status, off-shore precipitation, and power outages.

HV-X is the first hurricane platform to include evacuation-zone-based impact assessments and unique tools for visualizing potential storm surge levels,” said Robert Hallowell, a staff member in the Laboratory’s Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Systems Group who was stationed at the NRCC.

The HV-X developers were also able to tie in experimental products to the system. One such product was the Laboratory’s Offshore Precipitation Capability, which provides radar-like visualizations of storm activity over parts of the ocean that are outside typical weather-radar range.