As Hurricane Laura nears Texas coast, experts available from Rice

Hurricane Harvey viewed from space. Elements of this image are furnished by NASA

HOUSTON — (Aug. 25, 2020) — As Hurricane Laura nears the Texas coast, Rice University has a number of experts that can discuss a wide variety of storm-related topics.

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

Hurricane and flooding risks and impact

Hurricane Harvey viewed from space. Elements of this image are furnished by NASA

Phil Bedient, Rice’s Herman Brown Professor of Engineering and director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center, can discuss flooding issues that arise from tropical depressions, hurricanes and other severe storms. Bedient has studied Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented flooding and massive 2015 and 2016 floods in Houston and Louisiana. He can speak to the effects of urban development practices on these and other floods.

Jim Blackburn is co-director of Rice’s SSPEED Center, director of Rice’s undergraduate minor in energy and water sustainability and a professor in the practice of environmental law in Rice’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He can speak about how widespread property development has impacted storm and flood risks. Blackburn can also address the environmental and economic sustainability of regional hurricane protection proposals, including structural options such as dikes, levees and gates in and around Galveston Bay and nonstructural alternatives that aim to use coastal wetlands and prairies as natural storm barriers.

Energy industry

Ken Medlock, director of the Center for Energy Studies at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, can address the potential impact on gasoline prices and exports of oil, refined products and liquefied natural gas (LNG) when infrastructure is affected for an extended time.

Rachel Meidl, fellow in energy and environment at the Baker Institute, can discuss how to ensure energy infrastructure resilience when dealing with catastrophic weather events like hurricanes.

Mark Finley, fellow in energy and global oil at the Baker Institute, can discuss the intersections of energy, economics and public policy during times of severe weather.

Houston, Texas and urban issues

Stephen Klineberg, founding director of Rice's Kinder Institute for Urban Research and professor emeritus of sociology, can discuss Kinder Houston Area Survey data on the persistence of concerns about flooding among area residents, even 2 1/2 years after Harvey.

Katherine Ensor, the Noah Harding Professor of Statistics in Rice's Brown School of Engineering, can discuss the Texas Flood Registry (formerly known as the Hurricane Harvey Registry), which is committed to better understanding the health and housing effects of major natural disasters, and the recently launched COVID-19 Registry, which provides real-time information on the spread of COVID-19 in the region, who is being affected and how.

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.

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


Mark Jones, professor of political science and fellow in political science at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, can discuss government reactions to storms and the politics in play as well as public opinion on policies related to hurricanes and flooding.

Bob Stein, the Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science, can talk about local government reaction to storms and the politics involved in decision-making.


Danielle King, an assistant professor of industrial and organizational psychology in Rice’s School of Social Sciences, is an expert in the study of employee and organizational resilience. She can discuss resilience in the face of catastrophic events such as hurricanes. A New Orleans native who lost but subsequently helped to adapt her family business after Hurricane Katrina, she seeks ways to create resilience in individuals and groups at work.

To schedule an interview with one of the experts or for more information, contact Jeff Falk, director of national media relations at Rice, at or 713-348-6775.


Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

This news release can be found online at

Photo credit: University

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 3,962 undergraduates and 3,027 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 lots of race/class interaction and No. 4 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

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