UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Hurricane Katrina experts available for interviews

– 8/31/05 - File #17033
Contact: Media Relations
(510) 643-3714

MEMO TO REPORTERS: Hurricane Katrina Aftermath Experts

The following University of California, Berkeley, experts are available for media interviews related to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

LEVEES AND OTHER ENGINEERING CHALLENGES

Robert Bea
UC Berkeley professor of civil engineering
Campus Office: (510) 642-0967 (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
Home Office: (925) 631-1587 (Tuesday, Thursday)
E-mail: bea@ce.berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741, scyang@berkeley.edu
Broadcast contact: Julie Huang, (510) 642-6051, juliehuang@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Bea has expertise in the construction and maintenance of offshore oil platforms and pipelines, and has first-hand knowledge of the levee system in New Orleans, where he lived a total of eight years with his family while working as chief of offshore civil engineering for Shell Oil. He survived Hurricane Betsy, which hit the region in 1965, but lost his home to flooding. Many of the same problems the city is now experiencing with Hurricane Katrina -- failures of the levee and pump systems -- actually occurred during Hurricane Betsy.

Exacerbating the flooding dangers for New Orleans is the fact that the city sits below sea level and the soil in the region is soft and easily saturated, Bea points out. In addition, channels were constructed to make it easier for large cargo ships to reach New Orleans. The problem, says Bea, is that those channels also make it easier for sea water to rush towards the city.

Regarding the supply of oil from the Gulf of Mexico, Bea notes that last year's Hurricane Ivan brought down 10 percent of the oil supply facilities (platforms, pipelines, etc.) in the area. Hurricane Katrina, in contrast, has put 95 percent of the oil supply facilities out of service. "Oil prices jumped $3 a barrel overnight in response to Ivan. I would expect a significantly higher jump in oil prices with Katrina," said Bea.

PUBLIC HEALTH THREATS

Arthur Reingold, MD
Professor and head of epidemiology
Office: (510) 642-0327
Cell: (510) 610-0553
E-mail: reingold@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Sarah Yang, (510) 643-7741, scyang@berkeley.edu
Broadcast contact: Julie Huang, (510) 642-6051, juliehuang@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Reingold can address both the acute and longer term health threats related to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He heads the California Emerging Infections Program, a joint program with state and local health departments, and is the principal investigator for the CDC grant funding the Center for Infectious Disease Preparedness based at UC Berkeley.

He says the immediate threat to public health comes from the lack of access to appropriate hospital care. The highest priority should be in enabling health care workers to handle acute injuries, from heart attacks to broken bones to snake bites, he says.

Another priority is to provide clean water to reduce the risk of waterborne infectious diseases, such as viral gastroenteritis, hepatitis A and other illnesses related to the drinking of contaminated water. He notes that people who find themselves frequently standing in or walking through contaminated water -- such as rescue or relief workers -- could also be at risk for illnesses. There have been cases in the United States of leptospirosis, an infection caused by bacteria that can burrow through the skin.

Reingold says it will be difficult to predict the impact of mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus. He notes that many species of mosquitoes are very particular about their breeding sites and may not find the floodwaters ideal. He also says that while dead bodies are extremely upsetting emotionally, they are not a significant health risk.

GAS PRICES

Severin Borenstein*
Professor of business administration and public policy, director of the UC Energy Institute, research associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research
Office: (510) 642-3689
E-mail: borenste@haas.berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Kathleen Maclay, (510) 643-5651, kmaclay@berkeley.edu
Broadcast contact: Julie Huang, (510) 642-6051, juliehuang@berkeley.edu
*Available week of Aug. 29-Sept. 2 for print only

Expertise: Gasoline and oil market pricing and competition; U.S. and international airline industry and competition; electricity deregulation, market formation and competition

Dan Kammen
Professor of energy and resources and of public policy, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL)
Cell: (510) 459-9691
E-mail: kammen@socrates.berkeley.edu
Media relations contact: Robert Sanders, (510) 643-6998, rsanders@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Kammen has testified before U.S. House and Senate committees on energy and environmental issues. He has advised the New Apollo Energy Project, an initiative emphasizing energy independence and weaning the country from a reliance on imported fossil fuels by 2010.

POST-DISASTER RECONSTRUCTION, GOVERNMENT ROLE IN DISASTER RECOVERY

Mary Comerio
Professor of architecture
Office: (510) 642-2406 or call Media Relations at (510) 643-5651
E-mail: mcomerio@berkeley.edu
Media Relations contact: Kathleen Maclay, (510) 643-5651, kmaclay@berkeley.edu

Expertise: Comerio is an internationally recognized authority on post-disaster reconstruction issues, and says that people believe the Federal Emergency Management Agency will take care of them, and that perception will only change probably after a major disaster in which people can't get the help they expect. She recommends tax credits for modifying buildings and infrastructure to improve resistance to hazards, a reconception of the government's role in disaster recovery, and government intervention to revitalize the private disaster insurance market.

Comerio has spent much of the last 20 years on reconnaissance missions to the scenes of tragedies such as Hurricane Andrew, and the Loma Prieta, Kobe and Mexico City earthquakes. She advised in a 1998 book, "Disaster Hits Home: New Policy for Urban Housing Recovery," that unless new policies are adopted, natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes will continue to leave economic and housing ruin in their wake.