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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • S&T researchers create model for urban recovery after disaster

  • Helping a community recover quickly after a major disaster is the goal of a new project by researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
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  • Helping a community recover quickly after a major disaster is the goal of a new project by researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
    Working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, a team of Missouri S&T researchers is developing a model that can help city planners return their community to its pre-event state in the aftermath of a large-scale disaster.
    It’s one of the first models to consider critical infrastructure elements, geospatial data, hazard damage and restoration rate in a comprehensive recovery approach.
    “Most restoration plans deal with the short-term recovery, the search-and-rescue phase,” explains Dr. Suzanna Long, professor of engineering management and systems engineering at S&T.
    “People are in the moment. They’re facing an overwhelming task. A lot of decisions have to be made on instinct or expediency," she said.
    To construct the model, the research team began by gathering water, sewer line, transportation, communication and electricity data for Overland Park, Kan., a region that experiences tornadic activity at a rate that’s 4.1 times the national average.
    “We could have done it anywhere,” she says, "but that area also is nationally connected, with both industrial and transportation logistics.”
    The team worked with Dr. Tom Shoberg, research geographer in the Center of Excellence for Geospatial Information Science at the USGS, to compile detailed imagery of roads, bridges, electric lines and poles and cellphone towers in the area.
    To get a solid understanding of a tornado’s damage, the team called on the National Climate Data Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for insight into the average width, direction and path of an EF-5 tornado, along with the average size of the devastation and collateral damage zones.
    The research is personal to Long, whose high school-aged daughter was born in Joplin, a community where Long also worked at Missouri Southern State University.
     The model also integrates information about collaboration among the local, state and federal agencies, the availability of raw materials and number of skilled workers needed to get the community back on its feet.
    For the next phase, the team plans to model the impact of an 8 or 9 magnitude earthquake along the New Madrid fault of the St. Louis metropolitan area.
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