The Power of Water-“The Geotechnical Aspects of Coastal Impacts during Hurricane Harvey,” by Dr. Nina Stark

—By Emily Myers, PhD student of Water IGEP and Department of Human, Nutrition, Food & Exercise at Virginia Tech.



Dr. Nina Stark recently presented for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s graduate seminar on “The Geotechnical Aspects of Coastal Impacts during Hurricane Harvey” (1/19/2018). In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Dr. Stark joined the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) association to investigate the impacts of the natural disaster on the Houston area. When natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes occur, GEER, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), quickly assembles teams of expert volunteers to assess the situation and anticipate future challenges the area will face to inform future research projects. With an expertise in sediment transport, Dr. Stark assessed scour, erosion, and deposition changes that occurred due to the hurricane.

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While much of the discussion focused on the technical aspects of the investigation, Dr. Stark also talked about how it was difficult not to see the humanitarian impacts of the storm. She mentioned that locals would mistake the GEER team for FEMA works and assumed GEER to be there to provide aid. As the GEER team conducted their work, they noted that some areas were technically stable for now but may not be able to withstand the next storm.

As a student from the department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, my first thoughts about water are the positive ways it can contribute to our health. I consider all of the health benefits related to water intake as part of a healthy beverage pattern. This seminar helped me to think about water from a completely different perspective. Rather than contributing positively to the health of people in the area, people’s health and livelihood were negatively impacted by the power of water.

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