Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues.  Our student Kurtis Blettner makes this connection here…

The article “Alabama highway jammed as snow storm crosses South” was reported on Thursday January 17, 2013 in Huntsville, Alabama.  The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue of the occurrence and severity a storm can have on an unprepared sector.  In brief, this article speaks on the unpreparedness Huntsville Alabama has with forecasting snow storms and taking preventative measures to keep their citizens safe.  There were 13 inches of snowfall reported along interstate 65 with over 760 reports of crashes and disabled vehicles as well as one death.  The snowfall created a 14-hour traffic jam that stranded people in their vehicles overnight.  The article failed to mention the lack of action by the Huntsville State Highway Department.  They were not prepared for this amount of snowfall, due to the fact that the highest recorded snowfall for Huntsville in the month of January was 10.2 inches recorded in 1940 (HUN).  The lack of preparedness for snow removal for Huntsville is has left many frustrated citizens travelling through the area.  It is up to water resource engineers to take the time and listen to storm warnings and implement any and all preventative measures.

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Figure 1 – Snowfall along the highway leaves many people stranded on the side of the road.

Water resource engineering in many aspects is an interdisciplinary field pertaining to hydrologic and hydraulic systems to ease the stress of disasters and capitalize on advantageous occurrences.  The Huntsville snow storm issue in this news story impacts areas of societal and economic regions of water resource engineering.  The societal aspect of WRE relates to the impacts that the weather, in this case snow, has on society and the relationships between humans and nature.  The article relates to this societal impact due to the fact that there was a 14-hour traffic jam that killed one person and left many to fend for themselves in regards to surviving in the cold overnight.  The economic aspect of WRE is the economic impacts that a disaster might have on society such as damages or beneficial ones such as creating energy.  In this case the economic impacts were detrimental since over 760 reports of crashes and disabled vehicles occurred as well as the cost of the gas that was used to keep everyone warm in their cars.  The cause-effect between snow storms and society impact as follows – a storm will leave anywhere from a few inches to a few feet of snowfall onto human occupied areas and potentially creating enough mass to take down a power line from the weight of snow; leaving people without electricity in their homes or workplaces.

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Figure 2 – Relatively low visibility during the snow storm caused cars to slow down and eventually stop, causing traffic jams.

References

HUN Webmaster. “Winter Statistics – Huntsville.” National Weather Service Huntsville Alabama — Winter Statistics for Huntsville and Muscle Shoals.  30 Nov. 2012. Web. 05 Feb. 2013. <http://www.srh.noaa.gov/hun/?n=winterstatisticsforhuntsvilleandmuscleshoals&gt;.

Reeves, Jay. “The Big Story.” The Big Story. Associated Press, 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 05 Feb. 2013. <http://bigstory.ap.org/article/parts-southeast-digging-out-snow&gt;.

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