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Hurricanes in the Northeast? A Researcher Talks Preparation in midst of Coronavirus

LAUREN PEACE, HOST: Hurricane season is approaching, and in the midst of a pandemic. That’s made disaster relief preparation a little more complicated. Isaac Ginis is the lead researcher on a project funded by the Department of Homeland Security. He and his team train emergency managers and responders to use computer simulations to predict the impact of storms in the Northeast. But this year, Ginis says they may postpone the training, in hopes of doing it face to face.

ISAAC GINIS: Usually in New England, in Northeast we see storms in our regions later in the hurricane season in late August, September October. So we have a little bit more time. Perhaps compared to places like Florida in the Gulf of Mexico, who see the tropical storms party sooner in the season, so we might need to pass on the beginning of the training exercise a bit later into the summer.

PEACE: When I think of hurricanes, my mind immediately goes to Florida and to the south, but you're a specialist in the northeast. Tell me about that.

GINIS: Well, we don't have storms coming through the northeast, often, but they could be as impactful, if not more. We have a large concentration of people and industries in the northeast. So even storms that are not very strong, like a hurricane, Superstorm Sandy turned out to be the third costliest storm in the US history. So we're extremely concerned about strong storms, like category three, storm so even stronger with a significant rainfall with a slow moving storm that could produce a potentially catastrophic impact in our area. So we definitely need to really pay attention and be prepared because that is not something that is just a hypothetical scenario, it's most likely that we will see this in the future.

PEACE: I'd imagine disaster preparedness to be worked fit typically takes place in person. How have things adjusted? How would these trainings adjusted because of Coronavirus.

GINIS: Ah, I think it's mostly sort of personal interacting with, with emergency managers, with decision making. So, hopefully we will be able to use, you know, the technology that we could see people in person. I found it's much more effective to speak with people directly and rather than online. But fortunately, we do have now quite advanced online technology that we will be able to apply and hopefully, that will help us to reduce the sort of the limitations of not being able to communicate in person.

PEACE: That’s Isaac Ginis, a professor and researcher in the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. Isaac, thanks for chatting today.

GINIS: Thanks for having me.


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