September 12, 2017
News Release

PNNL Flood Modeling Helps DHS During Busy Hurricane Season

Lab support is through DHS's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center


A satellite image of Hurricane Harvey forming over the Gulf of Mexico from Aug. 23, two days before the storm became a Category 4 hurricane and hit land, resulting in hundreds of thousands of homes being flooded and more than 30,000 people being displaced.

Flood modeling analysis by researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is helping to inform federal infrastructure planning and emergency response efforts this hurricane season.

Models were used to help evaluate the impacts of Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast in late August and also supported similar efforts related to Hurricane Irma this past week.

For Hurricane Harvey, PNNL staff developed and ran twice-daily flood simulations over the course of eight days through the lab's involvement in the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center, also known as NISAC. About 20 PNNL staff contribute to the center's mission each year, five of whom specifically worked on the Hurricane Harvey response.

The simulations, based on NOAA weather forecasts, were used by DHS, DOE, DOT and others to improve understanding of the storm and its potential flood impacts on critical infrastructure such as roads and the power grid. The simulations were created with PNNL's Rapid Inundation Flood Tool, a two-dimensional hydrodynamic computer model.

NISAC analysis supports DHS' mission in understanding how critical infrastructure can be impacted by incidents of national concern such as hurricanes, flooding and manmade events.

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