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Federal, State Agencies Utilize CERA During Hurricane Season

The 2017 hurricane season was an active one for the Coastal Emergency Risk Assessment (CERA) tool.

The CERA group delivers storm surge and wave predictions for impending or active tropical cyclones in the United States. Based on the Advanced Circulation and Storm Surge model (ADCIRC), the CERA web mapping application provides an easy-to-use, interactive online interface. Emergency managers, weather analysts and GIS specialists can access real-time forecasting results to evaluate the impacts of a tropical storm or to see tide, wind-wave and extra-tropical surge conditions. The advantage of this system is to provide higher spatial resolution of impacts so that
vulnerabilities can be evaluated given local conditions.

During the 2017 hurricane season (June 1 to Nov. 30):

  • Texas officials used real-time data as well as models available through CERA to maintain the ferry schedule from Galveston to the Bolivar Peninsula during Tropical Storm Cindy. The decision allowed the Texas National Guard to use the ferry to make residential welfare checks, reducing travel time by about 90 minutes compared to driving all the way around Galveston Bay to reach the Bolivar Peninsula.
  • During Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Department of Transportation used CERA storm-surge information to decide when to close the Aransas Pass ferry. Texas Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Response also used CERA to anticipate changes in road access and determine when drivability was possible and when it was not. And the Texas State Operations Center used CERA to conclude it was unnecessary to evacuate an additional 100,000 residents from the Sugarland area, helping keep excessive numbers of cars off the road.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard’s decision to relocate its District 7 Command Center out of Miami during Hurricane Irma was based on data accessed through CERA. FEMA also used CERA to predict policy holder and other impacts before the storm made landfall. During the storm, CERA had 100,000 unique visitors per day. CERA was developed through a transdisciplinary Louisiana State University partnership with Louisiana Sea Grant, in collaboration with University of North Carolina.