Thursday, August 28, 2008

Open Letter to the Corps from Matt McBride

Recipient of the 2007 Ashley Morris award and fellow mechanical engineer is trying to pressure the Corps into releasing their surge modeling to show the public what would happen if Gustav comes this way. The Corps is probably running surge models based off computer projections (like GFDL) and Matt wants them released to the public. It would be a great step for the Corps to take to rebuild their reputation. Remember that risk management is very simple: "Just tell the truth," according to John Barry.


Dear Corps officials, (as well as government representatives, New Orleanians, and media representatives),

I am writing you to make a request. In light of the possible effects of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Gustav upon the Greater New Orleans area, I would ask that the Corps and its partners at LSU and the Universtity of North Carolina make public the results of storm surge model runs which are (or soon will be) created as part of the Lake Pontchartrain Forecast System (LPFS).

As I understand it, the Corps has contracted with UNC's Institute of Marine Sciences (contracts W912P8-06-P-0334 (from 2006, for $279,117) and W912P8-08-P-0082 (from earlier in 2008, for $101,512)) and their partners at LSU to provide forecasts of surge levels within Lake Pontchartrain when tropical systems are approaching New Orleans. This enables the Corps to determine when to lower the gates at the three interim closure structures along the Lake Pontchartrain south shore. The system is explained on a few webpages at LSU:

In light of the Corps' "12 Actions for Change" specifically Action Number 9, "Effectively Communicate Risk," it would be tremendous goodwill gesture to the public across the country to know what the Corps knows about the surge risk before the storm makes landfall.

Doing so would be in the same spirit that allows the National Hurricane Center and other organizations to make the results of hurricane track and intensity model runs available to public. Doing so allows government agencies and members of the public to plan more effectively, and allows the media to get more accurate information out to the public as they plan.

As part of your public outreach during the coming days, I urge you to upload the model results to your website so that everyone can be apprised of this vital information which will inform your decisions.

Best regards,

Matt McBride


Let's see if the media picks this up and runs with it.

UPDATE- Look what we have here: USGS map of water levels

UPDATE 2- Storm Surge Model for Gustav

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