Texas A&M University at Galveston and College Station offer breakthrough science to prevent property damage and loss of life

(Galveston, TX---Sept. 14, 2011) — With an increase of intense hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in recent years, homeowners are seeking ways to prevent property damage and possible loss of life due to floods. And now, professors from Texas A&M University at Galveston and Texas A&M University at College Station have a possible solution heralded by the National Science Foundation as a “breakthrough.”

Titled “Examining the 100-Year Floodplain as a Metric of Risk, Loss, and Household Adjustment,” this research could help reduce flood damage and property loss in 144 coastal counties and parishes in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The outcome of the research could be the basis for informing households that they may be outside the floodplain, but still at high risk for flooding.

Dr. Sam Brody, George P. Mitchell '40 Chair in Sustainable Coasts at Texas A&M University at Galveston, along with his colleagues, TAMUG Assistant Professor Wesley Highfield and TAMU Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning Professor Michael K. Lindell, recently received a two-year NSF grant for over $300,000 to reexamine coastal dwellers perception of flood risk based on the 100-year floodplain designation.

Noting that perceptions lead to actions, Dr. Brody says gathering this data could lead policy makers to different conclusions about the 100-year floodplain laws. He adds that new evidence could help save lives and property.

Brody further stated, “Our initial investigations revealed that up to 40 percent of flood losses are outside of the 100-year floodplain, the key marker for risk in coastal areas.  Our research seeks to better understand why this is the case and use the results to characterize flood risk along the Gulf of Mexico coast. The end result can be a more informed public and significantly reduced flood loss.”

In addition to being cited by the NSF for exemplary work, the Texas A&M University flood research also captured the attention of the U.S. Congress. As part of National Preparedness month, Dr. Brody presented this research on Capitol Hill. The forum was made possible by the American Geophysical Union and the Congressional Hazards Caucus. This NSF Expo showcased basic science and engineering research science and engineering discovery, technologies and tools that have practical application to hazards; specifically to facilitate capability to predict, prepare for, prevent and respond to disasters that affect life, property and societal facilities.

Commenting on the NSF grant award obtained by the Texas A&M researchers,  Rear Admiral Robert Smith, President and CEO of TAMUG, said obtaining grant funding through an unsolicited grant proposal is quite a feat, especially in times of economic constraints for research funding.

“Beyond the transformative potential of this work to improve the quality of life for citizens of Texas and the entire gulf coast, this research fuels innovation of thought, inspires other researchers and elevates the mission of Texas A&M University at Galveston as a research center of excellence,” Smith said.

For more information about the impact of flooding in the United States, refer to the book “Rising Waters,” recently published by Cambridge University Press. Coauthored by Drs. Brody and Highfield along with Dr. Jung Eun Kang, Research Fellow of the Korea Environment Institute, the publication examines causes of flooding in the United States and ways local communities can reduce associated human casualties and property damage. The book focuses on Texas and Florida, two of the most vulnerable flood-prone states in the nation.