The Wonders of Research

Luettich working on computers

When hurricane Ida made landfall in New Orleans in August 2021, Carolina Alumni Distinguished Professor Rick Luettich knew the possible devastation it could bring to coastal communities. That’s why he and other researchers worked together prior to the hurricane making landfall and were able to minimize the damage through the development of a computer program named ADCIRC.

Hurricane Ida wasn’t the only instance where the ADCIRC program was used. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, Luettich and his team helped the Army Corps of Engineers investigate causes for the severe damage — specifically why the levees failed — using ADCIRC to inform their study.

Luettich continued serving Louisiana as a commissioner on the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority, which oversees the protection system lying east of the Mississippi River. Thanks to the model he and his team created through ADCIRC, he was able to predict that hurricane Ida wouldn’t cause the same level of flooding that Katrina did.

“There’s a whole lot of people that want to live in coastal areas and many of them are subject to the ever-increasing threat of flooding due to our changing climate,” Luettich said. “Until people decide that they’re not going to live in these hazardous areas anymore, somebody needs to be thinking about how to quantify and understand the hazard so we can live with them as effectively as possible. That’s a lot of what coastal resilience really is.”

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