As Hurricane Sandy battered the New York/New Jersey coast in October 2012, civil engineering major Amelia Martin wondered what if Sandy had made landfall in Washington, D.C.? What residents and buildings would be most at risk of flooding?
“A lot of people were asking that question,” Martin says. “I figured there had to be some kind of scientific approach to answering that—and there was.”
Starting with storm surge data compiled by Celso Ferreira, one of her engineering professors, Martin undertook an extensive research project to answer those questions, using the same software as that used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Hurricane Center.
Her conclusion: A cluster of embassies and a few government buildings would be at particular risk of flooding. Using inundation maps, hydrodynamic modeling, and other processes, Martin’s ongoing research suggests tens of millions of dollars in damages from a Sandy-like hit in Washington.
Martin presented her findings at the American Geophysical Union Science and Policy Conference, where she was encouraged to share her research with various crisis management agencies.
With guidance from Ferreira, Martin continues to refine her project. It melds their dual interests in water and emergency planning and management, with both mentor and student fascinated by this fickle liquid, so vital yet so destructive.