Forecasting hurricane-related disasters

The punch from hurricane-strength winds is quick. In the Caribbean, the storms whip across the islands tearing out trees and shattering buildings. Monitoring hurricanes is a centuries-long tradition. But with all hurricanes, and even with less formidable rain storms, comes the threat of landslides and flooding to the hills and valleys on the islands' mountainous terrain. To help emergency personnel evacuate regions at high risk to these secondary rain-induced hazards, a consolidation of technology is needed, says Randall Updike of the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver. He is working with colleagues at the USGS, along with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and NASA, to establish a united front on forecasting landfall disasters from hurricanes in the Caribbean. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and The World Meteorological Organization also support the proposed idea, Updike added. Currently these organizations operate independently of each other. Updike presented his proposal of bringing the groups together at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver on Feb. 15.