Rebuilding after the floods: FEMA shares lessons learned after Sandy

October 28, 2013

This week marks the one-year anniversary of Superstorm or Hurricane Sandy. The destruction and devastation is still felt by many people on the East Coast as they rebuild and recover from this historic superstorm.

Damaged-homes-Superstorm-Sandy-GazetteImage: In this Oct. 31, 2012 file photo, a view from the air shows the destroyed homes left in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in Seaside Heights, N.J. New Jersey got the brunt of Sandy, which made landfall in the state and killed six people. Photo Credit: Mike Groll, Associated Press

Sandy is only one storm among many that have caused Americans agony in recent years. As recently as last month, catastrophic flooding damaged Colorado, and we never know what is coming in the future – when the next natural disaster will strike.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for providing aid to those affected by natural disasters, which includes resources like fact sheets and publications for consumers and local and state governments  on how to prepare for and recover from devastating floods.

Road-damage-Colorado-floods-2013Image: A flood-wrecked road in Colorado, September 16, 2013. Photo credit:  KUSA.

Hazard Mitigation Field Book – Roadways

Hazard-Mitigation-Field-Book_Flooded-Roadways_9780160902031One of the biggest problems immediately after a disaster like Hurricane Sandy is the impact of flooding on the infrastructure, particularly roads, that prevent emergency responders and local officials from getting in to the flooded areas to assess the damage, or construction personnel from getting materials in to rebuild.

Hazard Mitigation Field Book: Roadways focuses on ways for municipalities to lessen the impact of flooding on roadways. This FEMA roadway damage field guide helps state and local governments rapidly assess various flood-caused roadway hazards and identify the best hazard mitigation (HM) solutions for the situation. It also includes case studies and general design guidance to help prevent damage to and around roadways through engineering and construction practices.

The information is very technical— focusing on the various problems that can result from flooded roadways and how to fix, prevent and reduce the impact of the problems. FEMA is encouraging governments to be proactive and repair substandard infrastructure rather than getting stuck in a disaster-rebuild-disaster cycle that is often costly and does not fix the problem. But while the intended audience for this publication is local and state governments, it contains useful information for any concerned citizen. Hazard Mitigation Field Book: Roadways is available both in Spiral-bound Print and as an ePub eBook.

Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction

Home-builders-guide-coastal-construction_9780160914133Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction is comprised of 37 fact sheets broken down by ten topics related to residential coastal construction. The fact sheets are designed with photographs, drawings, charts and diagrams presenting the information in a user-friendly way. FEMA shares best practices and the reasoning behind them in order to improve the performance of buildings subject to flood and wind forces in coastal environments. Many of the fact sheets also include a list of additional resources on the topic.

This guide is a great resource for those who already sustained damage and need advice on how to rebuild while also renovating and improving your existing coastal residence.

Building contractors, realtors and others in the construction industry who work with homes in hurricane or typhoon-prone areas should take special note as Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction includes the newest building codes and recommendations for flood, storm and hurricane resistant construction learned from recent disasters.

[NOTE: For New Jersey residents, here is a Rebuilding After Sandy Fact Sheet about new state building requirements for coastal construction which refers to homes declared "substantially damaged buildings" (see below).]

Other Flood Publications

Answers-to-Questions-about-Substantially-Damaged-Buildings_064-000-00048-9A good companion book to the Home Builder’s Guide is the Answers to Questions About Substantially Damaged Buildings (Paperback) and eBook version which provides information on FEMA regulations and policy on substantial improvement as it applies to damaged structures.

Floods-The-Awesome-Power_9780160814181Floods: The Awesome Power is a consumer guide sold in a package of 25 from NOAA’s National Weather Service that explains flood-related hazards, and suggests life-saving actions you can take.

Prevention is Worth A Gallon of Cure

One year ago, Americans along the East Coast were evacuating and seeking shelter from Hurricane Sandy, and one month ago Coloradoans were under water. With each natural disaster there are lessons learned that can hopefully make a difference in preventing tragedy for when the next one strikes. Whether you live on the Atlantic, Pacific or Gulf Coast, or any flood-prone area, these valuable publications can help communities and homeowners rebuild and hopefully lessen the impact for when the damage is done.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THESE FLOOD-RELATED PUBLICATIONS?

You can find these Federal flood and flood control publications through any of these methods:

  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Go to a Library: GPO provides copies of these publications to Federal Depository libraries worldwide. Find them in a library near you.

About the Author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. Additional content provided by Government Book Talk Editor: Michele Bartram, Promotions & eCommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division.


Happy 66th -or 106th- Birthday, US Air Force

September 18, 2013

According to the Department of Defense’s website, the United States Air Force is 66 years ago today “that the National Security Act of 1947 turned what was then known as the Army Air Corps into the United States Department of the Air Force. A strategic, tactical and defensive force for the skies, the Air Force has become a vital role in our country’s military power.

USAF-Birthday-Video

Watch this US Air Force birthday video on YouTube.

However, if you add in the years since the Army Air Corps first flew in 1907, then the Air Force’s operations have really been going strong for 106 years today. It all depends on how you count it.

Therefore, it is fitting to look at the entirety of military aviation when looking at the US Air Force’s illustrious history.

A number of excellent publications have come out recently, both in print and eBooks, for the US Air Force, Army Air Corps and military aviation in general.

The ones we most recommend for understanding the evolution of today’s US Air Force include:

Overall History and Mission

008-070-00727-4The best two books covering the overall history and mission of what is now the United States Air Force are A Concise History of the United States Air Force and its recently released EPUB eBook version, as well as the extremely thought-provoking Air Force Roles and Missions: A History (also recently released as an eBook) which traces the evolution of the Air Force’s role and missions as well as the conflicts with other branches of the military over these definitions.

Early Beginnings through World War 1

Are you more interested in the earliest days of aviation when the Army first bought one of the Wright Brothers’ planes and its “daring young men in those flying machines” began to determine how airpower could be used for military purposes? Then you should read Logbook of the Signal Corps No. 1: The United States Army’s First Airplane in paperback or as a new eBook, which recounts the experiences of Benjamin D. Foulois, the pioneering, self-taught pilot of “Signal Corps No. 1″, the very first airplane of the United States Army Signal Corps.

HAP: Henry H. Arnold, Military Aviator, Shown here as Army Flight Instructor in College Park, Maryland. ISBN: 0-16-049071-5And don’t miss HAP: Henry H. Arnold, Military Aviator (Paperback) or the new EPUB eBook edition which tells the story of beloved Henry “Hap” Arnold, one of the first Army flight instructors and daring pilot. (See his image to the right as an Army Flight Instructor. Image courtesy: College Park Aviation Museum.)

Another very popular publication tells the story of air espionage during World War 1: Shooting the Front: Allied Aerial Reconnaissance and Photographic Interpretation on the Western Front – World War I.

Shooting the Front: Allied Aerial Reconnaissance and Photographic Interpretation on the Western Front - World War I (Paperbound)

World War 2

World War II is when it is widely acknowledged that military aviation came into its own. Toward Independence: The Emergence of the United States Air Force, 1945-1947 tells of the rapid evolution in use of airpower in the period leading up to its formation as a separate entity.

Korean War

By the Korean War, the US Air Force had become its own branch of the United States Armed Forces. Several publications chronicle the involvement of the newly formed USAF during this conflict, including Within Limits: The United States Air Force and the Korean War, Coalition Air Warfare in the Korean War, 1950 1953, and Silver Wings, Golden Valor: The USAF Remembers Korea which includes reminiscences and perspectives of Korean War Air Force veterans and historians.

Vietnam War

War Too Long: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1961-1975 ISBN: 9780160613692Over 50 years later, Americans are still wrestling with the lessons of Vietnam. So, too, is the Air Force in these excellent USAF publications War Too Long: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1961-1975  and War in South Vietnam: The Years of the Offensive, 1965-1968, as well as this Army digital publication, Interservice Rivalry and Airpower in the Vietnam War (eBook).

Cold War and Space Race

When the Soviets launched Sputnik, the space race was subsequently kicked off with the United States. The Air Force role was critical during the Cold War and in both in helping start our space exploration and ongoing support through to today in support of NASA. Read Early Cold War Overflights, 1950-1956 to understand the beginning of the espionage flights, and pick up a copy of the United States Air Force in Space, 1945 to the Twenty-First Century which covers the Air Force’s involvement in space exploration.

Gulf War to the Present

None of us can forget the images of bombs dropping during the Gulf War, the tale of which is told in Decisive Force: Strategic Bombing in the Gulf War.

Turning Point 9.11: Air Force Reserve in the 21st Century, 2001-2011  ISBN: 9780160914485And anyone with family in or who themselves are in the National Guard or a military reservist knows how the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan have changed the role of these personnel from backup to active participants. One of the best books we’ve read on the subject is the excellent Turning Point 9.11: Air Force Reserve in the 21st Century, 2001-2011 which chronicles these stark changes in the Air Force Reserve since the terrorist attacks on 9.11.2001.

Air Force on TV and in the Movies

Fans of the movie “War Games” will know about NORAD. Learn the true story behind this important homeland airspace defense organization in Guarding What You Value Most: North American Aerospace Defense Command Celebrating 50 Years and a new EPUB eBook version. Includes the heart-warming story of NORAD’s Christmas Eve Santa Tracker. (Read about this in our blog post Tracking “Big Red”: NORAD’s Secret Santa Mission [UPDATED].)

Fans of the TV show “JAG” Will love to discover the real history of this Air Force department in First 50 Years: United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Department.

Humanitarian Operations

Wings of Hope: The United States Air Force and Humanitarian Airlift OperationsLike the other branches of the US military, the US Air Force plays an important role in humanitarian operations, both here at home and worldwide. This publication—Wings of Hope: The United States Air Force and Humanitarian Airlift Operations—tells the overall story of various airlift operations. While it sounds like the plot of a disaster movie, the Ash Warriors (paperback) and its EPUB eBook version recounts the true story of the “Ash Warriors,” those Air Force men and women who carried out their mission in the face of an incredible series of natural disasters, including volcanic eruption, flood, typhoons, and earthquakes, all of which plagued Clark Air Base in the Philippines and the surrounding areas during June and July 1991. And the horrendous Hurricane Katrina brought out the best in the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, whose role is described in Operation Dragon Comeback: Air Education and Training Command’s Response to Hurricane Katrina.

“Blue Sky” Future

So join us in wishing a very happy 66th (or 106th) birthday to our very own United States Air Force. May there be blue skies in its future!

How can I obtain these Air Force History publications?

  • Shop Online: You can purchase these publications from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov, by clicking on the links above in this blog post or shopping our United States Air Force (USAF) History collection under our US & Military History category.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy a copy of print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Find them in a Library: Find these publications in a federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


People Get Ready, There’s a Storm Coming

May 29, 2013

Hopefully, you’ve never had to live through a hurricane or a tornado. I count myself lucky to have escaped the worst of the major weather events; living in an area that gets spent hurricanes is bad enough.

nhpwBanner2013If you live near the Atlantic Coast, as I do, you do need to worry about hurricanes. You want to remember June 1 as a significant date. It’s the start of the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to October 1. For that reason, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) kicks off National Hurricane Preparedness Week every year before the season starts. If you can’t leave home to avoid being in the path of hurricanes, the next best thing you can do is be prepared.  Make plans for getting through a storm: family communication plans and buddy plans. Build your disaster kit.

After my family and I lived through a man-made disaster, we made an evacuation plan so we know how we’ll try to reach safety. You should talk with your family about emergency strategies. Having plans for a storm or disaster doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use them, but you’ll be far better off than if you don’t have a plan. Go through checklists you can find at www.ready.gov and find out everything you can to be organized.

Hurricanes: Information and Activity Booklet

For further children’s activities and tutorials, there’s Hurricanes: Information and Activity Booklet, designed for ages nine and older. The slim volume describes the history of the word “hurricane”, as well as the reasons NOAA attaches personal names to each hurricane. The work also explains hurricane wind scales, defines hurricanes and typhoons, and much more.

Of special note are the accompanying pictures of some of recent history’s most destructive storms—Irene, Dora, Kenneth, Rick, Katia and of course, Katrina—help students understand how colossal they are. The photos show the storms nestled up against landmasses that they overshadow. If you could not visualize how large and fearsome these storms were before, you’d know it after you saw their photos. The informative graphics, puzzles, tests and quizzes provided will give children a good basic understanding of hurricanes.

katrina_in_gulf_2005-08-28Image: NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Katrina, taken on Aug. 28, 2005, at 11:45 a.m. EDT, a day before the storm made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast. While in the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina’s winds peaked near 175 miles per hour. Credit: NOAA

After studying both Hurricanes and Watch Out-Storms Ahead!, your kids should be as intellectually prepared as they can be.

Ready…Set…Prepare!

ReadySetPrepareYou’ll want to pick up a copy of Ready…Set…Prepare! [for Ages 4-7] Reading it will help your kids learn how to help your family prepare for storms in a more practical sense. FEMA designed this activity book to teach kids ages four to seven how to prepare for disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

Two cartoon kid characters—Angela and Mario, along with their emergency expert friends Bright Shinely and Newser—learn what they, too, can do to help their families prepare for disasters. (Parents and teachers of Dora and Diego fans, take note: these characters will seem eerily familiar. ;-)

Each chapter gives the basic facts about evacuation plans, family communication plans, pet care plans, and the types of disasters. Practical lists are scattered throughout that may help adults as much as children, such as a disaster supply kit list. Fun exercises to color and flashcards to cut out with the child’s recently acquired scissoring skills are also included.

Ready-Set-Prepare_ages-8-11Your children will find some solid entertainment packed in with the lessons included in this book. They are likely to wind up exhorting you to get your emergency plan together—and what could be better than that? Getting yourself and the little people in your life ready for an emergency is one of the best things you could do to protect your most precious assets.

FEMA created another version of Ready…Set…Prepare! [for Ages 8-11]. This contains more sophisticated activities and lessons for the older elementary schooler to prepare for emergencies.

Watch Out…Storms Ahead! Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book

owlie-skywarn_coverAn important part of making these plans is educating the children in your life—your children, your students, etc. If you are working with school-aged children, a good place to start is the excellent picture/activity book, Watch Out-Storms Ahead! Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book. This volume is a joint publication of NOAA, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the American Red Cross, and it covers tornadoes, lightning, floods and winter storms as well as hurricanes.

The book shows children what they can do to help their families get ready. There are quizzes, warnings, preparation and evacuation tips, and statistics that will help kids understand the importance of being prepared. Since the pictures are black and white, your kids can color them too. Throw this book and a packet of crayons in your disaster kit.

Sample question from the quiz: “A hurricane [blank] means a hurricane is expected within 36 hours and winds could reach 74 mph or more.” (answer: Warning)

How can I obtain these publications?

About the author: Our guest blogger is Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). (Article is adapted from an original  post in the FDLP Community site blog by Government Book Talk Editor, Michele Bartram, GPO Promotions & Ecommerce Manager.)


BP in Hot Water over Deepwater

February 25, 2013

As the BP Oil Spill civil trial begins this week, the Federal Government will attempt to prove whether British Petroleum (BP) and/or any of its contractors such as Transocean (RIG), the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and Halliburton (HAL), which was responsible for pouring the cement plugs in the well, were “grossly negligent” and thus financially liable in causing the deadly BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig explosion on April 10, 2010, and the blowout of the Macondo well.

BP-Deep-Water-Explosion-April-20-2010

Image: Explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig at the Macondo prospect well. Photo credit: Associated Press.

The initial explosion killed 11 oil rig workers and triggered a subsequent oil spill which dumped millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, with the full extent of the long-term ecological and economic damage to the Gulf states and aquatic and wildlife still unknown.  With tar balls linked to the BP oil spill still washing ashore from Louisiana and Alabama to as far away as Australia, if BP is found “grossly negligent” instead of “simply negligent,” it will be on the hook for $17.6 billion in additional clean-up costs on top of the $4.5 billion fine for the criminal case settled in November 2012.

The National Commission on the BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling produced two landmark and controversial reports about the oil spill causes and consequences that are critical in understanding the Government’s case against BP:

1)      Macondo: The Gulf Oil Disaster. Chief Counsel’s Report 2011, and

2)      Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling, Report to the President, January 2011.

THE MISSION

Established by Executive Order 13543 on May 21, 2010 by President Barack Obama, the mission of the National Commission on the BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission was to examine the relevant facts and circumstances concerning the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and develop options to guard against, and mitigate the impact of, any oil spills associated with offshore drilling in the future.

BP-Deep-Water-CommissionIn addition, they were to recommend any needed improvements to Federal laws, regulations, and industry practices concerning the oil and gas industry.

Image: Commissioners of the National Commission on the BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. Image credit: C-SPAN

Key areas of inquiry for the Commission included:

  • The Macondo Well Explosion and Drilling Safety
  • The Role of Offshore Oil Drilling in Domestic Energy Policy
  • Regulatory Oversight of Offshore Drilling
  • Oil Spill Response
  • Spill Impacts and Assessment
  • Restoration Approaches and Options

THE INVESTIGATION

Macondo-Oil-Spill-Report-9780160879630The first order of business for the Commission was to carry out the directive in the Executive Order to “examine the relevant facts and circumstances concerning the root causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.” They instructed the Commission‘s Chief Counsel Fred Bartlit and his investigative team to provide “the most comprehensive, coherent, and detailed account of the events leading up to the blowout and explosion” of Macondo, the name of BP’s offshore prospect in the Gulf of Mexico in the sector called the Mississippi Canyon Block 252, or MC252 where BP was drilling at the time of the accident.

The result was this report, Macondo: The Gulf Oil Disaster. Chief Counsel’s Report 2011, which provides additional details and documentation supporting the findings in the Commission’s final report.

The respected Library Journal, in selecting the Macondo report as one of its “Notable Government Documents” for 2011, said:

“The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was created by President Obama and charged with investigating the root causes of the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The committee concluded that the cause of the blowout was not mechanical. Instead, a number of poor management decisions, combined with an inadequate regulatory structure and an indifferent regulatory agency, overwhelmed the safeguards designed to prevent such disasters. Plenty of illustrations and photographs offer a glimpse into the technology of offshore oil rigs.” – LJ

For trial watchers, this publication is a must-read as much of the initial documentary evidence is included.

THE FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Deep-Water-Report-9780160873713The second and final report is the best-selling Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling, Report to the President, January 2011. It not only offers the full account of what happened in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010 and why, but also offers recommendations on proposed actions, changes in company behavior, reform of government oversight, and investments in research and technology that will be required to avert future disasters.

In Part I: The Path to Tragedy, “Chapters 1 through 3 describe the events of April 20th on the Deepwater Horizon, and, more important, the events leading up to it in the preceding decades—especially how the dramatic expansion of deepwater drilling in the Gulf was not met by regulatory oversight capable of ensuring the safety of those drilling operations.

In Part II: Explosion and Aftermath:  The Causes and Consequences of the Disaster, Chapters 4 through 7 lay out the results of the Commission’s investigation in detail, highlighting the crucial policy-related issues: the specific engineering and operating choices made in drilling the Macondo well, the attempts to contain and respond to the oil spill, and the impacts of the spill on the region’s natural resources, economy, and people—in the context of the progressive degradation of the Mississippi Delta environment.

BP-deepwater-2-yr-impact

Image: Chart illustrating some of the ongoing effects of the BP Macondo well oil spill two years after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Infographic credit: ColorLines.com

In the final section, Part III: Lessons Learned: Industry, Government, Energy Policy, Chapters 8 through 10 present the Commission’s recommendations for reforms in business practices, regulatory oversight, and broader policy concerns.

Throughout the book, the Commission makes the case that outlines a number of primary conclusions, including these unsettling findings:

  • The explosive loss of the Macondo well could have been prevented.
  • The immediate causes of the Macondo well blowout can be traced to a series of identifiable mistakes made by BP, Halliburton, and Transocean that reveal such systematic failures in risk management that they place in doubt the safety culture of the entire industry.
  • Deepwater energy exploration and production, particularly at the frontiers of experience, involve risks for which neither industry nor government has been adequately prepared…
  • To assure human safety and environmental protection, regulatory oversight of leasing, energy exploration, and production require reforms even beyond those significant reforms already initiated…to ensure [the regulators'] political autonomy, technical expertise, and their full consideration of environmental protection concerns.
  • Because regulatory oversight alone will not be sufficient to ensure adequate safety, the oil and gas industry will need to take its own, unilateral steps to dramatically increase safety…
  • The technology, laws and regulations, and practices for containing, responding to, and cleaning up spills lag behind the real risks associated with deepwater drilling…
  • Scientific understanding of environmental conditions in sensitive environments in deep Gulf waters, along the region’s coastal habitats, and in areas proposed for more drilling, such as the Arctic, is inadequate. The same is true of the human and natural impacts of oil spills.

Delivered to the President on January 2011, the final report starts with a poignant dedication “to the 11 men who lost their lives on the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, 2010 and to their families, in hope that this report will help minimize the chance of another such disaster ever happening again.”

Will it help prevent another such disaster? Read these publications and decide for yourself.


How can I buy these BP oil spill publications?

  • Buy them at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find them in a federal depository library.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


US Geological Survey and the Science of Hurricanes

August 30, 2012

Having family and friends who live on the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and the Gulf Coast, I find myself glued to the weather stations following the latest hurricane reports whenever late August rolls around.

Today, folks along the Gulf Coast and particularly Plaquemines Parish outside of New Orleans are dealing with the wind and flood damage of slow-moving Hurricane Isaac that made landfall on the seventh anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2005.

Image: Advance projection of the track of Hurricane Isaac as of August 27, 2012, vs. Katrina in 2005. Source: University of Miami/ Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science 

Thus, it seems like a good time to talk about the great work of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and their role in hurricane response and prediction of their impact.

The USGS Mission

The USGS is a bureau of the US Department of the Interior and its mission is to “provide the Nation with reliable, impartial information to describe and understand the Earth. This information is used to minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; enhance and protect the quality of life; and contribute to wise economic and physical development.”

The Natural Hazards part of the USGS mission sounds like the latest natural disaster movie script from Hollywood where the brilliant scientist comes in with the latest findings of pending disaster and how to avert it (Quite often, that “brilliant scientist” comes from USGS.)

The USGS Natural Hazards mission areas include:

The Coastal and Marine Geology Program conducts research on changes in the coastal and marine environment, whether naturally occurring or human induced. Contributing to the Natural Hazards mission, the program supports research on marine geohazards including earthquakes, tsunami, and underwater landslides, and on coastal change hazards from sea-level rise, erosion, and extreme storms including hurricanes.

Typical USGS Hurricane Support

While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its National Weather Service is responsible for tracking and predicting the course of hurricanes (See the National Hurricane Center), the USGS’s research “focuses on understanding the magnitude and variability of the impacts of hurricanes and extreme storms on the sandy beaches of the United States. The overall objective is to improve the capability to predict coastal change that results from severe storms” and to “support management of coastal infrastructure, resources, and safety.

USGS science helps identify areas that may need to be evacuated due to their extreme vulnerability to hurricanes or where preventive measures are needed to mitigate some of their damaging effects.  When hurricanes strike, you can find critical information to help protect lives and property at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hurricane website.

After all, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, “More than half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of a coast—and coastal populations are increasing. Many U.S. coastal areas, especially the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, will be in the direct path of hurricanes.”

USGS Response to the Hurricanes of 2005

Science and the Storms: The USGS Response to the Hurricanes of 2005 reports on the many and varied activities performed by the USGS in response to the four major hurricanes—Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma— that hit the United States during that year.  Topics vary from flooding and water quality to landscape and ecosystem impacts, from geotechnical reconnaissance to analyzing the collapse of bridges and estimating the volume of debris caused by the hurricanes.

From the report we learn that some of the tasks performed by USGS were routine for them. After all, as employees of the Nation’s largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, USGS scientists have been studying hurricanes and hurricane-related impacts for decades:

[USGS scientists] have measured and studied flooding and water quality. They have used the latest technology—from satellite imagery and geographic information systems to lidar (light detection and ranging)—to view and analyze damage to the barrier islands and coastal wetlands that protect people and property. They have examined the effects of hurricanes on land, water, vegetation, and wildlife.

But the impact of the extraordinary 2005 hurricane season on the United States required a new level of study. It was a season of unfortunate hurricane “firsts” from the first year with: 13 hurricanes, 4 hurricanes of them hitting the U.S.,  and with 3 of them Category 5. This led the USGS scientists to perform “dozens and dozens of other studies that hurricane season,” including the following:

  • Examining the cycles of hurricanes and their relation to sea water surface temperature.
  • Looking at oil slicks and chemicals in the flood waters and the sediments in and around New Orleans
  • Studying the flood protection systems in New Orleans and surrounding areas.
  • Recording the effects of the hurricanes on manatees off the coast of Florida and on birds whose fall migration was disrupted by these ferocious storms.
  • Analyzing the destruction of bridges and measuring debris.
  • Studying the landscape of the Gulf Coast and measuring the enormous changes due to hurricane winds and flooding.

Chapter 1:The Need for Science in Restoring Resilience to the Northern Gulf of Mexico is an essay establishing the need for science in building a resilient coast.

Chapter 2: The Storms of 2005, includes some hurricane facts that provide hurricane terminology, history, and maps of the four hurricanes’ paths. Chapters that follow give the scientific response of USGS to the storms with the analysis and findings, including:

Chapter 3: Rescue and Response,  documents the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) humanitarian rescue operations as well as its scientific responses to assess damages from the hurricanes, from the Mississippi River flood-protection system and bridges and to assess the coastal debris, oil slicks, and flooding in New Orleans.  Rescue operations by USGS personnel included boat rescue, delivery of food and water to isolated communities, and the geoaddressing of 911 calls, which merited the USGS a Service to America Medal award.

This was one of the more interesting stories in the book, showing how important fast-acting science can be in an emergency. As New Orleans’ streets flooded, emergency response officials suddenly realized that water rescue in a major metropolitan area was not a contingency they had planned for and that many emergency responders could not locate specific streets if they were all underwater, unrecognizable, or unfindable. Thus, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was asked to apply geoaddressing to convert New Orleans street addresses on emergency calls into latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates that could be located by compass and GPS-wielding emergency responders in the field- on boats, in the air, or on land.

The result was a database that USGS built in which each emergency call was represented by a point in a geographic information system (GIS). This data ended up being provided to a variety of emergency personnel and scientists from: the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), the Louisiana State Police (LSP), the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Louisiana Geological Survey.

Chapter 4: How Technology Helps describes some of the critical technology that enables U.S. Geological Survey scientists to assess conditions before and after storms, including: near real-time geospatial monitoring systems, geospatial support for emergency responders, Web-accessible data, and satellite imagery.

Chapter 5: Landscape Changes documents the more severe changes to the Gulf Coast landscape resulting from these four hurricanes from Alabama to Texas, including plunging hundreds of miles of Louisiana coastline underwater; estuarine damage to barrier islands; erosion of beaches ; and the damages and loss of floodplain forest.

Chapter 6: Ecological Impacts covers the hurricanes’ effects on both vegetation and the animals that depend on Gulf Coast habitats on land and in water. Discussed in this section are migratory birds, coastal marsh vegetation, chenier forests, coastal floodplain forests, mangrove forests, estuaries, and the endangered manatee.

Image: USGS scientist illustrates the depth of sand deposition (74 inches) from Hurricane Rita in 2005 on Hackberry Beach chenier in Louisiana. Source: USGS Science and the Storms.

Chapter 7: Aquatic Environments reports on the many studies performed by USGS scientists devoted to analyzing waters affected by the flooding from the storms of 2005 and the chemical composition of contaminated sediments.

Chapter 8: Science and the Storms: the Science Continues is a compilation of relevant ongoing and future hurricane research for restoring a resilient coast.

Epilogue: The epilogue marks the second year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Facts and Figures

Usefully, both English and metric measurements are used in the articles in anticipation of both general and scientific audiences in the United States and elsewhere, and the entire report is peer-reviewed to ensure the integrity and independence of the findings.

Furthermore, the publications is chock full of color photographs, illustrations and graphs, bringing the facts alive and conveying the stark devastation of a hurricane-ravaged coastline, such as before and after photographs of the Chandeleur Islands in Louisiana.

Conclusion

Thus, the purpose of Science and the Storms: The USGS Response to the Hurricanes of 2005 was to inform the American people of the USGS science that is available and ongoing in regard to hurricanes.

Hopefully, the lessons learned by USGS following the Hurricanes of 2005 will help inform our response to hurricanes in 2012.

HOW CAN YOU OBTAIN a print copy of Science and the Storms: The USGS Response to the Hurricanes of 2005?

  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Librarians Pick Notable Federal Books- 2012 Edition

July 3, 2012

It’s that exciting time of year again if you’re a publisher of Federal publications. It’s the equivalent of the Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards or the Grammy Awards… Well, maybe that’s pushing it, but when the American Library Association’s (ALA) Government Documents Round Table or GODORT convenes the Notable Documents Panel of its Publications Committee to choose the top government-produced publications of the previous year, we can’t help but get caught up in the excitement.

Each year, this ALA GODORT Notable Documents Panel selects what it considers to be the most “Notable Government Documents” published during the previous year by Federal, state, and local governments and includes the list of winners in its prestigious Library Journal (LJ).

According to its website, Library Journal is “the most trusted and respected publication for the library community. LJ provides groundbreaking features and analytical news reports covering technology, management, policy and other professional concerns to public, academic and institutional libraries. Its hefty reviews sections evaluate 8000+ reviews annually of books, ebooks, audiobooks, videos/DVDs, databases, systems and websites.

This year, as usual, many of the Federal publications the panel selected are available through the Government Printing Office’s Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) libraries and GPO’s Sales Program.

Out of all of the Federal Government documents LJ looked at in the past year, here are some of those it found most notable:

  Keeping America Informed: The United States Government Printing Office 150 Years of Service to the Nation

Publisher: Government Printing Office (GPO)

GPO’s own role in producing excellent Government publications in its 150 years of history gained it a place on the GODORT list for the past year:“Liberally illustrated with historical photographs and facsimiles of famous government documents, this volume will appeal to a wider audience than depository librarians. Historians and history buffs who have an interest in government and how it interacts with both the private sector and public employee unions will find a compelling story that focuses on the federal government’s obligation to keep citizens informed about its activities.” – LJ

  Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012 (Hardcover)

Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012 (Paperback)

Publisher: Commerce Department, U.S. Census Bureau

The Statistical Abstract of the United States, published since 1878, is the standard summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. It is designed to serve as a convenient volume for statistical reference and as a guide to other statistical publications and sources. The latter function is served by the introductory text to each section, the source note appearing below each table, and Appendix I, which comprises the Guide to Sources of Statistics, the Guide to State Statistical Abstracts, and the Guide to Foreign Statistical Abstracts.

The Library Journal adds an important update about this: “In addition to being the quintessential statistical resource of all time, Statistical Abstract is a Notable Document for 2011 simply because this edition will be the last produced by the Census Bureau and distributed through FDLP. Future editions will be published commercially, so librarians will still have options for maintaining the continuity of their print collections. A classic reference tool.” – LJ

  Macondo: The Gulf Oil Disaster. Chief Counsel’s Report 2011

Publisher: National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

“The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was created by President Obama and charged with investigating the root causes of the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The committee concluded that the cause of the blowout was not mechanical. Instead, a number of poor management decisions, combined with an inadequate regulatory structure and an indifferent regulatory agency, overwhelmed the safeguards designed to prevent such disasters. Plenty of illustrations and photographs offer a glimpse into the technology of offshore oil rigs.” – LJ

  Then Came the Fire: Personal Accounts From the Pentagon, 11 September 2001

Publisher: Defense Dept., Army, Center of Military History

“In 2011, there were many publications designed to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. In addition to the 59 people aboard the flight that struck the Pentagon, 125 people in the Pentagon were killed. The editors of this memorial volume have collected the stories of eyewitnesses, including the military and civilian personnel who escaped the burning building and first responders and reporters at the scene. It also includes hundreds of photographs.”- LJ

  Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867

Publisher: Defense Dept., Army, Center of Military History“

In what may be the definitive operational history of black troops in action during the Civil War, [author] Dobak describes the differences in how freedmen and runaway slaves were recruited, how they lived, and how they were trained. Most important, it considers how gallantly these men performed in combat at a time when many of their own leaders questioned whether they would be willing to fight for their own freedom and for that of their families. Much of the documentation comes from the ‘War of the Rebellion’ series.” – LJ

  Legacy of Excellence: The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology 1862-2011 

Publisher: Defense Dept., Army, US Army Medical Department Center and Schoo1, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Public Affairs Office, Borden Institute

“In 1862, shortly after the Battle of Antietam, army surgeon general Brigadier Gen. William Hammond ordered the establishment of the Army Medical Museum. Surgeons working on Civil War battlefields were encouraged to preserve anatomical specimens, such as severed limbs and diseased organs, and send them to the museum for further research. From the start, the museum made its displays of specimens and instruments, as well as its medical library, available to the general public. Under the leadership of later curators, such as John Billings and Walter Reed, the museum evolved into the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Readers interested in the history of science, especially medical science or in the devastating effects of Civil War weaponry on the human body, will be fascinated by the hundreds of graphic photographs.” – LJ

And a hearty congratulations to all the winning Federal agency publishers for an excellent job!

How can you get these publications from this year’s Federal Notable Government Documents collection?

  • Buy any of these publications online 24/7 by shopping the Notable Government Documents 2012 collection at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy them at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find these publications in a library near you.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Notable Documents 2009: Tracking Hurricanes

May 21, 2010

I believe this blog is evidence that Government books can provide both information and entertainment to readers, despite their stereotyped image as massive tomes packed with charts and statistics that only someone wearing a green eyeshade could love. Sometimes, though, charts also have their charms. Consider one of Library Journal’s 2009 Notable Government Documents: Tropical Cyclones of the North Atlantic Ocean, 1851-2006. Known to hurricane aficionados as “The Track Book”, this latest edition of a long-running series is mainly made up of year-by-year charts of the tracks of all North Atlantic tropic storms and hurricanes – 1,370, to be exact. Thanks to some diligent research by the staff of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, this edition includes charts from 1851 to 1870 and revised charts from 1871-1910. I’m intrigued by the kind of research that had to be done to come up with tracks for the 19th century storms – no satellite photographs then. Apparently ship records are a major source.

Well, OK, but so what? For one thing, of those 1,370 storms, 521, or 38 percent, have crossed or passed immediately adjacent to the U.S. coastline from Texas to Maine. Having recently blogged about the National Guard in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the colorful spaghetti-like strands that mark the tracks of 2005’s storms make these charts a lot more meaningful. It’s also interesting to see the variations from year to year – 2005 is a real tangle, while for a handful of years the charts are almost blank.

Tropical Cyclones of the North Atlantic Ocean, 1851-2006 isn’t exactly “a good read” but it does have a fascination all its own. For hurricane watchers, for example, it’s a vital reference source. You can look at it here. To find a library that has it, go here. To read more about the lessons Hurricane Katrina taught all of us, go here. Happy hurricane hunting!


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