Themes and Activities

Applied Hydrography

Overview: Precise positioning and water levels are critical data during coastal disasters which result in submerged debris fields which must be mapped and abated, sub-surface bathymetry changes because of shifting topography, or when areas that have never been mapped become important because of a disaster. The goal of our Center in light of this is to conduct a series of activities aimed at increasing NOAA’s capacity to react these types of extreme, but increasingly common, circumstances. When Hurricane Irma passed inland of Tampa Bay in 2017, all 5 major ports in Florida had to be closed; Co-PI Luther provided local logistical support for the NOAA Office of Coast Survey National Response Teams to survey the ship channels to get the port reopened as soon as possible but there are improvements to be made to improve safety and efficiency. Ports in Tampa Bay handle over 50% of the refined petroleum product for the state of Florida, with most of the remainder entering through Port Everglades, hence the need to re-open port facilities quickly. Since Irma, Luther has worked with the Office of Coast Survey, US Army Corps of Engineers, the Tampa Bay Pilots Association, Port Tampa Bay, USCG Sector St. Petersburg, and the Florida Harbor Pilots Association to establish a vehicle to manage a state-wide effort to have bathymetric survey gear ready to respond in the aftermath of future storms, potentially deployed from pilot boats or other vessels of opportunity, to get ports re-opened faster; pilot boats are typically the first vessels back on the water after a storm event and no vessels can move until the pilot boats get out, ergo they are ideal platforms to conduct rapid surveys if NRT assets are not available quickly. COMIT will build Luther’s efforts to establish a Pilot Program for Rapid-Response Readiness to develop and test novel approaches for conducting post-storm channel surveys. We propose to incubate a group of rapid-response hydrographic data processors and analysts available to support NOAA survey operations in the wake of a disaster. Our vision for a disaster data processing support (DPS) unit would see COMIT/USF College of Marine Science as a centralized Hub for the fast deployment and co-ordination of vessels and vehicles.

Proposed activities:

  • Port Survey “Pilot Program” / Regional Rapid-Response Readiness Facility
  • Resilient/Distributed Data Processing Support
  • Disaster Response Preparedness: Tabletop Exercises and Practical Drills