Southwest Florida Roundup
FAMU-FSU College of Engineering researchers developing tool to predict hurricane debris road blocks
A team of researchers from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering is looking to remote-sensing technology to find better ways of predicting where road clogging debris will be most severe following hurricanes.
The college’s Resilient Infrastructure and Disaster Response team is investigating satellite images taken before and after hurricanes that have impacted Bay County in recent years, including Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm that devastated the region in October 2018. From the satellite images the team will correlate debris measurements with factors such as wind speed, initial amount of vegetation and roadway density.
Researchers aim to develop a tool that gives emergency management planners an estimate of the debris storms are likely to generate — allowing officials to plan, for example, where to position trucks and collection zones ahead of storms.
“The faster you can get debris off the roadway, the better you will be in terms of getting back to normal after a hurricane hits,” says Tarek Abichou, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.
- The DeFuniak Springs Municipal Airport has launched a $12.4-million expansion that includes a new terminal and runway extension. The $6.9-million terminal will feature a large lobby and include flight instruction classrooms and a pilots lounge. Airport Director Dan Edwards says construction is scheduled to take 20 months.
- Suvranu De is the new dean of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. De comes from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, where he was a professor in the School of Engineering and also headed the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering. “Dean De’s impressive background makes him well-suited to lead the way forward as we enter a new era of success at the college,” says FAMU President Larry Robinson.
- Panama City-based Eastern Shipbuilding was recently awarded a contract to begin work on the company’s fourth offshore patrol cutter for the U.S. Coast Guard. In September 2016, Eastern Shipbuilding was awarded a contract to build up to 11 cutters, but after Hurricane Michael in 2018, the Coast Guard reduced the contract to four ships. The 370-foot cutters take about three years to construct. The Coast Guard has bids out for 11 additional cutters, and Eastern President Joey D’Isernia says the company will compete with other major U.S. shipbuilders for those 11 boats.
- Walton County is the No. 1 trending destination in America among travelers searching for vacation rentals, according to a recent Airbnb travel survey. The platform for vacation rentals and tourism activities cites the county’s 26-mile stretch of beaches, the area’s four state parks and large numbers of galleries and restaurants as main drivers of Walton’s current popularity.
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $532-million contract to Colorado-based Hensel Phelps to repair buildings and facilities at Tyndall Air Force Base, devastated in 2018 by Category 5 Hurricane Michael. The contract calls for various projects to support flight line operations for the F-35 fighter jets expected to arrive at Tyndall, southeast of Panama City, in September. The contract is part of a $604-million investment in Tyndall and is one of the largest recent military capital contracts on record.
- Florida A&M University received $1.2 million from Frank and Laura Baker to help students with financial challenges graduate in four years. “Through our conversations with FAMU, we learned there are extremely capable students who aren’t able to graduate in four years solely due to limited financial resources,” says Frank Baker, co-founder and managing partner of the private equity firm Siris, which has an office in Florida. “We also discovered that the four-year graduation rate is a key metric in determining the amount of funding FAMU receives from the state of Florida. This made our investment decision pretty easy — getting FAMU students in the workforce sooner and potentially unlocking more state funding,” Baker says.