Rice U. experts available during 2018 hurricane season


David Ruth

Rice U. experts available during 2018 hurricane season

HOUSTON — (May 25, 2018) — With the hurricane season beginning June 1, Rice University experts are available to discuss several storm-related topics with reporters.

Hurricane Harvey radar

Photo of Hurricane Harvey approaching Texas in 2017 courtesy of NOAA.

Last year, Rice’s hometown of Houston faced historic and devastating flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Harvey was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in 2005, and combined with Irma and Maria to produce a “furious” 2017 hurricane season, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

In a four-day period, Harvey moved slowly over southeast Texas and dropped more than 40 inches of rain. The wettest tropical cyclone on record in the United States, the storm flooded hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people and prompted more than 17,000 rescues. Harvey is tied with Hurricane Katrina as the costliest tropical cyclone on record, inflicting $125 billion in damage.

Rice University experts were cited in more than 15,000 media outlets during the storm and its aftermath.

Yesterday, NOAA released it 2018 hurricane forecast. The government agency is forecasting a 75-percent chance that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be near- or above-normal and predicted 10-16 named storms. Storm researchers at Colorado State University are also forecasting an above-normal season and have predicted 14 named storms.

Rice’s hurricane experts, by topic area, include:

Hurricane and flooding risks and impact

Phil Bedient, Rice’s Herman Brown Professor of Engineering, director of the SSPEED Center and designer of the Rice University and Texas Medical Center Flood Alert System (FAS4) can discuss flooding issues that arise from tropical depressions, hurricanes and other severe storms. In his 2012 book, “Lessons from Hurricane Ike,” Bedient and more than 20 other researchers gave a 194-page account of what they learned from studying the 2008 storm that caused nearly $25 billion in damages and killed dozens. Bedient has studied Harvey’s unprecedented flooding and massive floodings from 2015 and 2016 in Houston and Louisiana. He can speak to the effects of urban-development practices on these and other floods. Bedient was Rice’s most-cited Hurricane Harvey expert in 2017.

Jim Blackburn is co-director of Rice’s SSPEED Center, director of Rice’s undergraduate minor in energy and water sustainability, a professor in the practice of environmental law in Rice’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a practicing environmental attorney. He can speak about the impact that widespread property development has had on storm and flood risks. Blackburn also can address the environmental and economic sustainability of regional hurricane protection proposals, including structural options for dikes, levees and gates in and around Galveston Bay and nonstructural alternatives that aim to use coastal wetlands and prairies as natural, protective storm barriers. Blackburn founded a group called Bayou City Initiative with the goal of providing a central location for various civic organizations and NGOs to come together to promote flood literacy in Houston, both among the general public and elected officials.

Energy industry

Ken Medlock, director of the Center for Energy Studies at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, can address what can happen to gasoline prices around the country and exports of oil, refined products and LNG when refining, pipeline or port infrastructure or LNG facilities are negatively affected for an extended time.

Corporate response and leadership

Tom Kolditz, director of Rice’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders, can discuss crisis leadership strategies with examples taken from hurricanes Katrina and Sandy; he uses the two events in his presentations, and they are included in his book, “In Extremis Leadership: Leading as If Your Life Depended on It.” The Doerr Institute is the most comprehensive leader development initiative at any top 20 university. Former Vice President Al Gore, a member of the Doerr Institute board, spoke at Rice last year following Hurricane Harvey.

Terry Hemeyer, adjunct professor in Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business and crisis management/communication expert, can discuss crisis management and communication challenges that communities, the public, corporations and government entities face in times of disaster. Recently, Pierpont, a communications firm where Hemeyer serves as executive counsel, featured Hemeyer in a post about “Crisis Management: Controlling the Chaos.”


Bob Stein, the Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science, can talk about local government reaction to a storm and the politics that are in play. Stein’s research agenda this summer includes a June survey that re-interviews his previous subjects of a Harvey panel, specifically focusing on recovery and support for the upcoming August Harris County bond election. Stein is fielding a survey of Houston fire and EMTs about where it floods in the city. He is also going to evaluate the city’s storm sewer capital projects since 2016 using large and granular surveys of citizens in effected/impacted areas.

Mark Jones, professor of political science and fellow in political science at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, can discuss government reaction to a storm and the politics that are in play.

National Hurricane Center names for 2018 Atlantic storms:



For more information or to schedule an interview with one of Rice’s experts, contact David Ruth, director of national media relations, at 713-348-6327 or david@rice.edu.

Rice has a VideoLink ReadyCam TV interview studio. ReadyCam is capable of transmitting broadcast-quality standard-definition and high-definition video directly to all news media organizations around the world 24/7.

Image for download:
Caption: Hurricane Harvey approaches Texas in 2017.
Photo courtesy: NOAA

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Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,970 undergraduates and 2,934 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for quality of life and for lots of race/class interaction and No. 2 for happiest students by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to http://tinyurl.com/RiceUniversityoverview.

About David Ruth

David Ruth is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.