Commerce's NIST coordinates study of structural damage from Gulf hurricanes

October 14, 2005

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced that it has deployed the first of three teams of technical experts under a multiorganizational partnership to perform assessments of physical structures damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the nation's Gulf Coast. The partnership--coordinated by NIST and made up of 26 engineers from 16 separate private-sector, academic and federal organizations--will document data from the field on damage to major buildings, infrastructure facilities and residential structures due to wind, wind-borne debris, storm surge, surge-borne debris and flooding.

The damage assessment teams also will collect damage and environmental data from other sources, correlate damage data with environmental data, and identify building codes and practices used in the affected areas. Their efforts will result in a single report from the entire partnership documenting all findings, recommendations for any additional assessments needed of structural performance during the hurricanes, and any immediate implications for building practices, standards and codes.

The 16 organizations participating in the three damage assessment teams are NIST, the Applied Technology Council, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Highway Administration, the International Code Council, the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations, the National Research Council of Canada, Texas Tech University, the University at Buffalo, the University of Puerto Rico, Amtech Roofing Consultants Inc., Applied Residential Engineering Services, ImageCat Inc., Scawthorn Porter Associates Inc., Shiner Moseley and Associates Inc., and Smith & Huston Inc.

The first damage assessment team began a four-day tour of duty on Oct. 10 in the East Texas/West Louisiana coastal areas affected by Hurricane Rita. The team is focusing its observation and data collection efforts on regions where wind speed measurements were obtained during the hurricane and where the data indicate wind strengths that may have approached levels used in building design.

The second and third damage assessment teams will be deployed on Oct. 17 to the regions affected by Hurricane Katrina. These teams will perform similar functions to the group currently assessing damage from Hurricane Rita. One team will concentrate on the New Orleans area while the other will focus on the Mississippi/Alabama coastal regions.

To support the planning and deployment of the three damage assessment teams, NIST had already sent experts on preliminary reconnaissance and data collection missions into the hurricane-affected areas of Louisiana and Mississippi. A NIST roofing expert was in the field from Sept. 6-9 to work with a roofing industry group, followed by a team of four NIST structural engineers that worked in the region from Sept. 26-Oct. 1. The latter group collaborated with an assessment team headed by the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency. Additionally, two of the NIST engineers joined with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at its invitation, to collect preliminary data on damage to the levees and other flood control systems around New Orleans.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST develops and promotes measurement, standards and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade and improve the quality of life.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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