Rowan Engineering professor uses soil expertise to restore the ShoreNovember 19, 2012
Rowan University College of Engineering’s Dr. Beena Sukumaran, professor and chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering, dedicated the first weekend of November to determining the damage left in Superstorm Sandy’s wake.
As a member of the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER), Sukumaran and her team surveyed various bridges and communities along the Jersey Shore, from Brigantine to Belmar.
According to its website, engineers from around the world comprise GEER, a National Science Foundation initiative providing preliminary surveys following geotechnically significant extreme events. Extreme events include earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, mudslides and floods. Recently GEER responded to earthquakes in Italy, Eastern Turkey, Virginia, Japan, New Zealand, California, Chile and Haiti,and to a flood along the lower Mississippi River.
Engineers now are evaluating destruction and causes of failure of engineered structures such as bridges, buildings, roads, slope protection systems and tunnels in New Jersey and New York. The lessons learned will help professionals rethink design strategies for damage prevention in the future. Sukumaran, whose expertise is in soil mechanics, assessed all soil-related damage, particularly to bridge foundations. She’s corresponding with the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection — the first storm responders — to develop a comprehensive report within the first six months following the storm.
In her first assessment with GEER, Sukumaran worked long hours preparing and gauging coastal damage. While her colleagues stayed in Atlantic City, Sukumaran returned home to her husband and daughter for the night before heading back to work at 5 a.m.
She described using her expertise to evaluate devastation so close to home as painful.
“You do hope you can make a difference — and ideally there will be lessons learned for the future so we don’t see repeats of this,” said Sukumaran.
The assessment is ongoing, as the group was unable to access Long Beach Island and other barrier islands during the first weekend. Several students assisted Sukumaran in assessing damage due to breaches in the bulkheads in Atlantic City along the Absecon inlet.
“Our students are never hesitant to help and are willing to volunteer their time and local knowledge,” said Sukumaran.
A larger Rowan Relief effort is bringing University students, faculty, staff and alumni together in an ongoing effort to assist in restoring the New Jersey Shore post-Superstorm Sandy through various service projects. Additional information is available at www.rowan.edu/rowanrelief.
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