Hurricane Katrina: U-M experts available to discuss aftermath 10 years later
On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina created one of the biggest natural disasters in U.S. history, resulting in more than 1,800 deaths and causing $108 billion in total damages.
University of Michigan experts are available to discuss aspects of Katrina 10 years later:
Laura Lein, professor and dean of the School of Social Work, has conducted research on households in poverty and health disparities.
“The experiences of Katrina evacuees highlight the difficulties faced by those in near-destitution poverty, including the fragmented services available to them, the difficulties in exercising civil rights, and the particular hardships that emerge when entire communities are impoverished,” she said. “Research with Katrina evacuees indicates that many of them remained in near-destitution years after the evacuation.”
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Sandra Graham-Bermann, professor of psychology in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, has conducted research on children and mothers who experienced trauma.
“Even though Hurricane Katrina happened a decade ago, the children or teens who lived through that experience are still coping,” she said. “In some cases, professional counseling is needed. In other cases, perhaps their parents can help them sort through the pain.”
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Wally Hopp is a professor of technology and operations and senior associate dean at the Ross School of Business. His research focuses on the design, control and management of operations systems, with emphasis on manufacturing and supply chain systems, innovation processes and health care systems.
Hopp said that Hurricane Katrina has pushed firms to put significant investments in making their supply chains more resilient.
“Ten years ago when the hurricane hit New Orleans, many firms were surprised to find that they had suppliers (often second and third tier) in the Gulf region. So they were unprepared for the disruptions that occurred,” he said. “Today, the best firms have mapped their supply chains, have analyzed their vulnerability to disruptions and have either multisourced their supplies or have put in contingency plans for handling disruptions.”
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Dr. Eden Wells, clinical associate professor of epidemiology and director of the Preventive Medicine Residency at the School of Public Health, has research interests in emerging infectious disease threats, applied epidemiology and public health practice, including preparedness planning for public health emergency events.
A board-certified physician in both internal medicine and preventive medicine, Wells is an expert in disaster epidemiology. In 2012, she led a team that assisted with relief efforts following the massive tornado event in Kentucky. In addition, she recently was appointed chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“Katrina’s massive impact on Gulf Coast communities continues to reverberate throughout the last decade,” she said. “Public health and emergency managers across the nation take lessons learned from this past devastating event to work together towards strengthening and preparing communities. Public health emergencies like Katrina show that there is an ongoing need to plan, prepare and to improve response plans.”
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JoLynn Montgomery, assistant research scientist in epidemiology at the School of Public Health, founded the Public Health Action Support Team (PHAST) in 2005 to provide public health students with formal field training for responding to public health disasters.
A year later, she accompanied a group of 40 PHAST students to assist with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. PHAST groups returned to the Katrina area in 2007 and 2011.
Montgomery previously served as director of the Michigan Center for Public Health Preparedness, where she trained state and local department staff in epidemiology and disease surveillance.
“It is crucial that we remember the public health lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina to minimize the impact of future disasters large and small,” she said. “In the last decade, for example, we have made major improvements to disease surveillance systems to monitor outbreaks, immunization information systems to monitor immunization coverage and vaccine supply, and electronic medical and pharmacy records that allow remote access for continuity of care. We must continue to support these improved systems and fund the public health infrastructure to guarantee a better and faster response to any public health emergency.”
Chris Ruf, professor of atmospheric science and electrical engineering, is the principal investigator in the NASA Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System Earth Venture Mission.
“The CYGNSS satellite constellation scheduled for launch next year will significantly improve our ability to track and monitor hurricanes prior to landfall,” he said. “That should also improve our ability to forecast the time and place of landfall as well as the storm intensity and surge. Our hope is that this will leave us better prepared for the next Katrina.”
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