Thursday, May 19, 2011

SLOSH, MEOW and MOM - more from the GHC

At the first afternoon workshop I attended the Regional Evacuation Study Roundtable for the Northeast Florida and East Central Regions. Using federal and state funds from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, $29 million was spent to generate the first simultaneous regional evacuation study for the entire coastline of the state of Florida. These studies are important for state and local planners to plan for hurricane evacuations.

SLOSH stands for Sea Lake Overland Surge from Hurricanes. SLOSH provides a graphical representation on how far inland the water from a hurricane is expected to penetrate. $24 million of the cost of the study was devoted to flying an airplane along every inch of the state's coastline and using a laser to calculate the height of the coastal counties. This digital data was stored in an extremely LARGE database and would be the basis for the SLOSH calculations.

The SLOSH are too complicated for me to go into here. Suffice to say, the depth of the surge at any given point on a coastal county depends on not only the elevation of that location but on the size, intensity, forward speed and direction of movement of the hurricane. Therefore, they fed this data into a supercomputer for a few days and ran hundreds of hurricanes with a combination of the different variables for each hurricane. MEOW stands for the Maximum Envelope of Winds for each of those hurricanes.

To be safe, the SLOSH maps produced for use by local and state planners shows the MOM, or Maximum of Maximums of all the different hurricanes run through the computer. These maps show the depth of the penetration and the depth of the water at each location, among other things.

This is an extremely simplified version of a very complex subject. Since the release of the products to the counties last year, planners have been trying to digest the enormous volume of data that the studies provide. Planners will use this info to make Plans to evacuate and shelter everyone based on the forecast provided by the National Hurricane Center.

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