Stony Brook will host NYS RISE storm research hub

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that Stony Brook University will be home to the NYS RISE, which will analyze previous weather events to prepare for future ones. (MIKE PEDERSEN / THE STATESMAN)

Stony Brook University will serve as one of two home bases for the New York State Resilience Institute for Storms & Emergencies (NYS RISE), Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Friday, Nov. 1.

At his Conference on Emergency Preparedness in Albany, Cuomo revealed that the new facility will be a research hub for analysts, government officials and emergency first responders to analyze previous storms and collaborate on ideas to improve the way the state will address future extreme weather events.

“Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee taught us many lessons from the last three years,” Cuomo said in a press release. “But the biggest lesson of all was that we have much more to learn about today’s changing and unpredictable climate.

“We are gathering top academic leaders, policy makers, emergency experts and first responders from across the nation to develop strategies to meet one simple goal—and that is to better protect New York’s communities in natural disasters,” he continued.

However, according to the Associate Dean of Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, R. Lawrence Swanson, who will be co-directing the institute with SOMAS Dean Minghua Zhang, the project started soon after Superstorm Sandy, last February.

When the researchers at Stony Brook were ineligible to receive federal government funding for their work, they turned to the state for aid.

“Some of our contacts [suggested] we apply directly to the state because FEMA was not only giving money for restoration of homes and property but a certain proportion of that money was to go to research,” Swanson said.

But Stony Brook was not alone in their efforts. Along with SBU’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, the Resilience Institute will also be housed at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn, where Construction Engineering and Management Professor Fletcher H. (Bud) Griffis will head the institute on his end.

“I guess in somewhat of a parallel move, New York University also was doing similar things,” Swanson said. “It became apparent within the state that the two of us were embarking on independent paths and suggested that we merge efforts and put together a single proposal, which we did.”

Swanson said the program will mostly be internalized and will not bring in experts from around the nation. But, the university will mostly work alongside Brookhaven National Laboratory.

“Brookhaven is going to be leading the effort for the Stony Brook portion of the program,” Swanson said in a phone interview.  “And looking at some of the energy issues that arose during the storm and how to improve those.”

Some researchers will also allow students to participate in their work for NYS RISE. Swanson said SOMAS will be using both its graduate and PhD students, and some faculty members want to use their undergraduate students to work on their projects.

“Some of [the work] will be done in the field, other parts of it will be totally within the confines of the University here itself,” he said. “A lot of it will be getting information from local communities in order for us to better understand what they went through [and] trying to improve the situation for the next time.”

This article was originally published in the Nov.20, 2013 issue of The Statesman.
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