May 2018 Meeting Recap

Participants of the May 22 meeting in Savannah, GA
Top row, left to right: David Frost (Georgia Tech), Tom McDonald (City of Savannah), Nick Deffley (City of Savannah), Clinton Edminster (The Creative Coast) Kim Cobb (Georgia Tech), Kirk McElveen (CEMA), Bill Nicholson (CEMA), Randall Mathews (CEMA), Lalith Polepeddi (Georgia Tech). Bottom row, left to right: Emanuele Di Lorenzo (Georgia Tech), Russell Clark (Georgia Tech).

With the start of another hurricane season, residents across coastal Georgia face the prospect for severe flooding. Thanks to a new partnership between Georgia Tech scientists and engineers, and staff from the City of Savannah and Chatham County Emergency Management Association, a new network of online sea level sensors may provide real-time information about the location and magnitude of coastal flooding events. The team plans to use the sea level data to aid in emergency response planning and risk assessment for communities along Georgia’s coast. The team was formed in response to the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, which seeks to partner Georgia Tech researchers with community partners and governmental agencies across Georgia to explore the potential for “smart” infrastructure in four selected communities.

The Smart Sea Level Sensors team had their first workshop in Savannah on May 22, 2018, co-sponsored by the City of Savannah and Georgia Tech’s new Global Change Program. The workshop included faculty and researchers from Georgia Tech, including Russ Clark, Kim Cobb, Emanuele Di Lorenzo, David Frost, and Lalith Polepeddi, as well as Nick Deffley and Tom McDonald from the City of Savannah, and Randall Mathews, Bill Nicholson, and Kirk McElveen from Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA). Clinton Edminster, Board Chair of The Creative Coast, also joined to explore additional community partnerships for the project.

Workshop participants reviewed the technology for the sea level sensor network, explored a variety of novel applications in emergency response and planning, and put forward a number of creative suggestions for enabling the public to engage with the data in real time through effective data visualization techniques and community events. In particular, communication strategies will leverage on-going efforts through the Georgia Climate Project, whose “Climate Stories” will feature several coastal communities and their residents. At the end of the workshop, the team chose a number of high-priority locations for sensor deployment, and mapped out a strategy to get several dozen sensors deployed by the end of the summer.

Later that day, Professor Cobb and Lalith Polepeddi met with the Mayor of Savannah, Eddie DeLoach, to brief him on the outcomes of the workshop and collect his feedback and input. The Global Change Program is already planning a follow-on workshop for August 2018 to engage a larger set of stakeholders and review next steps.