tv Hearing on Reducing Windstorm Impacts CSPAN November 16, 2021 4:52am-6:14am EST
>> without objection the chair is authorized to declare recess at any time. today the committee is meeting virtually. just a couple of reminders to members about the conduct of this hearing. members should keep the video feed on as long as they are present in the hearing. members are responsible for their own microphones. please also keep your microphones muted unless you are speaking. finally, if members have documents they wish to submit to the record, please email them to the committee clerk whose email was circulated prior to the hearing. good morning. that hearing will come to order. thank you to our distinguished panel of witnesses for joining the virtual hearing on examining the national windstorm impact reduction program. we have got witnesses from fema,
nsf, and looking forward to hearing their testimony. i am also speaking to all of you in conducting this virtually from city hall in the city of farmington, michigan to bring attention to the incessant windstorms that have become more severe and more frequent in my community. as you can see the city of farmington was very badly damaged by windstorms that hit in july. the picture below is also windstorms that tore through another one of our communities in white lake. this was almost a weekly occurrence. i really want to thank our mayor and our city manager here in farmington along with the city council that really banded together. unfortunately, the citizens in farmington and across the area have just seen ample evidence and experienced the destructive
power of windstorms. we had a super cell storm that hit in july. the residents were not even able to hear the warning. there was no tornado warning or siren that sounded to even go into their basement. not only were trees knocked over but damaged and they are shaky and they continue to pose a risk to residents in their neighborhoods. even despite our advancements severe windstorms remain the most destructive and costly natural hazards. we had $1 million of damage between farmington and southeast michigan. we continued to experience a nonstop deluge of windstorms. we had nine hard-hitting storms in nine weeks. i will say that again, nine
hard-hitting storms in nine weeks. they created a cycle of destruction in our communities. if we can show the map, i would like to just show how badly hit we were here in southeastern michigan. i hear the storm cast said the first destructive severe storm warning -- it was the first time in detroit the weather service used his destructive storm warning, a new label, for the highest category of damage threat. these damaging storms have caused countless power outages and flooded homes, countless. we are talking power outages ranging from hours to days to ensuing over a matter of weeks.
people are stressed, they are exhausted from the turmoil. with that, in the two years since the last science committee hearing my home state has experienced six severe storms, billion-dollar disaster events. no state in our nation's untouched by the damaging -- is untouched by the damages. recent decades have led to improvements in the national weather service's ability to forecast hurricanes, tornadoes and other storms. however, accurate forecasts alone are not enough to protect lives and property against windstorms and their impacts. i am deeply grateful we are having this hearing today and a chance to hear from our expert witnesses on additional needs in research, workforce and infrastructure for improved
windstorm impact resilience at nywork. they were established in 2004 with the goal of improving the understanding of windstorms, improving impact assessment, and reducing windstorm impacts. atmospheric and engineering research conducted by the program has advanced our understanding of the processes underlying the impact on structures. post-disaster investigation conducted by program agencies further informed the behavior of windstorms. this is already improved models. they send information to the general public on windstorm preparedness. during a severe windstorm we
certainly need to have all of the protections in place. however, it is policymakers that truly hold the key to future windstorm resistance through the decision-making regarding mitigation and preparedness. the challenges in preparing for and mitigating against severe storms are far too broad for any one agency to handle on their own. nywork's model has enabled the program to make important advances in dating lives and reducing the impact of storms. new challenges lie ahead. authorization for nywork expired before i got to congress but the program is committed to its excellent work and i applaud the agencies for these efforts.
we engage in today's hearing from the agencies on the changes to the program that can continue to improve our nation's resilience to severe windstorms. with that, i am over time. i am the chair, i recognize our ranking member from the nice state of florida for an opening statement. thank you. >> thank you, chairwoman stevens. good morning. thank you for holding this hearing. thank you to our panel for your time to share your expertise on this topic. as the chairwoman said it is important across across the states. looking forward to the discussion. i am glad we are improving our understanding of natural disasters. as we continue our review today all 50 states are impacted.
windstorms, tornadoes, tropical storms, hurricanes in my state and flash thunderstorms and associated flooding issues are some of the largest natural hazards in the u.s. right now. we in florida are very familiar with extreme weather events. in the last five years my home state has been severely impacted by intense hurricane seasons. hurricane irma in 2017, hurricane dorian in 2019. both made landfall in my district and caused over $1 billion in damage. [no audio] >> we will just give him a minute.
>> it does appear he has frozen. we will contact his office. >> he does have three minutes left. dr. scott weaver, the national windstorm impact production director at the national institute of standards and technology. prior to joining nist dr. weaver served as the senior climate scientist for the edf and spent several years as a research
meteorologist in the climate prediction center at the national oceanic and atmospheric administration, noaa, and holds appointment as adjunct associate professor in the department of atmospheric at the university of maryland. our next witness is dr. linda blevins, deputy assistant director of the engineering director at the national science foundation. she provides leadership and direction to the directorate with supports research and education in manufacturing, housing infrastructure and other national priorities. prior to joining nsf in 2017 dr. blevins served as senior technical advisor in the office of the deputy director in the department of energy's office of science. our final witness is mr. michael
grimm, assistant administrator for risk management at the federal emergency management at fema. under his direction risk management, he delivers quality risk data modeling and programs that increase the public's awareness of risks across a range of natural hazards. he also directs the natural hazard mitigation planning committee and fema's catastrophic modeling responsibilities. mr. grimm served as mitigation director at fema and directed individual assistance division. i am going to pause. has mr. wolf been able to rejoin us? i know we have the full committee ranking member on us today, frank lucas, is not going to be delivering an opening
statement. but obviously fairness and bipartisan exchange are important to this committee. it does not look like we have mr. wolf back. what we would like to do -- our full committee chair is at the cop26 meeting in glasgow. she is not with us either. certainly an important hearing so what we would like to do is move into witness testimony. these are really nice testimonies that have been written up. we are going to give five minutes for spoken testimony. your written testimony is going to be included in the record for the hearing. when you completed your spoken testimony we are going to begin with questions and each member will have five minutes to question the panel. we will add his three-minute to
his question time. with that, we start with dr. weaver for five minutes. i see on the screen dr. weaver. you are going to do five minutes of testimony. thank you. >> thank you, good morning. chairwoman stevens, ranking member walt, and members of the subcommittee. i am the director for the national production program at the department of commerce national institute of standards and technology, nist. thank you for the opportunity to appear before you. we focus on achieving major measurable reduction in loss of life and property from windstorms three coordinated federal effort involving fema, nist, noaa and nsf. have made notable progress to reduce windstorm impact. this includes significant improvement hurricane forecast and increased tornado warning
time, advancing wind mapping to engineering based designs, research support proposed windstorm investigation, and implementation of research-based recommendation encodes, standards and practices. despite these achievements nation continues to experience loss of life and property due to these events. windstorms and associated flooding are the largest loss producers in the u.s. every state in the country is exposed to windstorm hazards from one or more storms. over the last 40 years windstorms caused over $1 trillion in economic loss in over 8000 fatalities. the greatest of these are associated with tornadoes and hurricanes. over the past 10 years tornadoes caused an average cost of $10 billion per year. in 2011, 6 different tornado outbreaks affected 16 states and provided damage of $29 billion and 545 fatalities.
in 14 months from august 20 17th through october 2018 five major hurricanes made landfall, not including hurricane florence which landed as a category 1 but caused catastrophic flooding to the carolinas. the 2020 hurricanes these and established a new record for most named storms, 12 of which made landfall in the u.s. the cause of underlying windstorm losses are many, varied, and complex. summa related to long-term societal changes such as the movement of populations toward coastal areas. others relate to changes in storm activity as the result of global climate change, lack of understanding of surface level storm characteristics and associated hazards, interactions on the environment, how to mitigate them and effectively communicate with and educate the public and other stakeholders. in the recent decades great improvements have been made in warning systems for hurricanes,
tornadoes and other windstorms. however, large gaps remain in climatetology. losses due to windstorms will only continue to increase. i want to thank the committee for its recognition of the necessary role of the federal government and others in supporting windstorm reduction and focusing on reducing loss of life and property. to address this challenge in 2018 we had a strategic plan developed with stakeholders across government, academia and the public sector. three overarching goals have been identified including the following -- improve the understanding of windstorm processes and hazards, improve the understanding of windstorm impact on communities, and improve windstorm resilience of communities nationwide. a signature nist research emblematic of these goals is the current investigation of the effects of hurricane maria in puerto rico.
this aims to better understand how building the infrastructure failed and how we can prevent that in the future. we seek to look at the conditions that led to injuries and deaths, how critical buildings can design safe areas within, including dependence on electricity, water, transportation and other infrastructure, how emergency communication systems were performed and the public response, and the impact to and recovery of selected businesses, hospitals and tools as well as the critical social functions they provide. after completion of the study nist will pursue and track implementation of his recommendation in an effort to reduce impact nationwide. we continue to make strides implementing the strategy put forward. however, as losses mount there is much work to be done. we greatly appreciate the effort this committee and other members of congress have done to support resilience programs that keep the nation safe. i am pleased to answer any questions you may have. thank you.
>> excellent. thank you, dr. weaver. i see ranking member walt z. would you like to finish your opening statement? >> thank you, chairwoman. i will submit it for the record. i wanted to point out a seminal event for florida was her can andrew in 1992. it was some time ago but it looked like god had taken a lawnmower across the state. 125,000 homes were flattened and since then i think our state and local officials have taken important steps in improving building codes and if you go to a community now when they are hit by a storm, you can literally tell which homes were built after 1992 and which were built before 1992 because of
those important steps. i will submit the rest of the record and let our witnesses continue. >> excellent, thank you so much. we will hear from dr. blevins next for five minutes. >> thank you. good morning, chairwoman stevens, ranking member waltz, ranking member lucas and members of the subcommittee. my name is linda blevins and i am the deputy assistant director of the engineering directorate at the national science foundation. it is an honor to appear before you today along with our federal partners to discuss the important role in the national windstorm impact reduction program. nsf supports research across all fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at all levels of stem education. this uniquely positioned nsf partnership brings diverse groups of research together with
communities, industry and others to identify problems and put science, engineering and technology to work to develop solutions. nsf does this across the entire country. tackling problems at the national, regional and local levels and ensuring americans from every geographic and demographic background participate in and benefit from nsf investments. for decades nsf has been fostering research and innovation to improve resilience to natural hazards, including windstorms like hurricanes, tornadoes and nor'easters. we examine the fundamentals of how windstorms form, move, change and interact with earth, water, and climate forces to improve predictions and risk assessment. i examine the behavior of buildings, infrastructure and the natural environment in the
face of wind forces to enable better designs and mitigation options. and they examine community consequences in human responses to support improved planning and policy, emergency response, risk communication and decision support. working alongside our partners at nist, noaa and fema, nsf operates state-of-the-art research infrastructure offering coordinated research programs, supporting them as promising ideas from across the country and by investing in the development of a diverse work force that is critical to the future. nsf engineering research structure is a national network of experimental facilities that provides researchers access to world-class unique capabilities. this network includes the wind
tunnel at the university of florida, the wall of wind at florida international university, the wade research laboratory at oregon state, and coordination office at purdue. through those and other facilities researchers study everything from hurricane force wind to so nominees. -- tsunamis. we collaborate to address community priorities. through this program nsf funded projects that will enable the development of rural resilient tests in florida and recovery at the hampton roads area. it is vital to support research as natural disasters unfold. nsf's rapid response research
award does just that. through rapid projects nsf has funded research in the immediate aftermath of several major windstorms, including hurricanes florence and michael in 2018, the easter sunday 2020 tornado, and the u.s. midwest 2020 deracho. we also have a reconnaissance network ready to deploy when needed. extreme weather research relies on basic understanding of weather and climate patterns and trends. nsf investments in climate research and everything from the physical processes that determine hurricane intensity to tornado genesis and vortex structure. this research improves predictions and helps communities mitigate and adapt. looking looking forward the research supported by n.s.f. will be key to achieving our shared goal of preventing natural hazards,
including windstorms, from becoming soinlal disasters. i vetsments in new areas like artificial intelligence will provide better understanding. n.s.f. appreciates congress' continued support for the agency's mission. and its property contributions to critical national priorities. we look forward to continuing to work with the committee and with our partner agencies. thank you again for the opportunity to testify and i'm happy to answer questions. chair stevens: thank you, dr. blevins. mr. grimm. mr. grimm: good morning -- good morning, chair stevens, ranking member waltz, members, and subcommittee. i'm michael grimm and assistant administrator for risk management for the federal insurance mitigation administration. thank you for opportunity to discuss the supporting role with the national windstorm impact reduction program. fema's mission is helping people
before, during, and after natural disasters. mitigating the impact of binned storms damages from events such as hurricanes, tornadoes and others is as important aspect of this responsibility. the risk of extreme windstorm varies across the country, no state, tribal nation, locality, is immeund. as a result of climate change, natural disasters are more frequent, more intense, and more destructive. in 2020 a powerful der recho went across the midwest. earlier this year hurricane identified yeahs win stredz went to 155 miles per hour in less than 24 hours. when ida made landfall, it remained much of its strength as it crossed over nine states in four days leaving a path of daniel from the gulf coast to new england. to address the nationwide risk posed by windstorm damages, fema is actively working to support the goals of the national windstorm reduction program in
coordination with our carters in. for example, too improve windstorm safety protection measures, fema's issued guidance publications leading to development of a storm shelter design construction standard that's used by design professionals across the nation. nist and fema coordinated and submitted dozens of successful daing change proposals to the standard thereby increasing safety and reliability for occupants taking shelter from extreme winds. fema also paragraph -- participates in the building code process to promote the inclusion of wind resistant provisions. many of the proposals are based on mitigation assessment from observations in the field after a wind events. many of these activities are conducted in considered nation with our carter in agencies. partner agencies. they apply to lessons learned. these findings help architects,
building officials and owners to understand why wind damages happen and learn how to prevent them from reoccurring. one of the most effective ways to safe guard our communities is to adopt hazard resistant building codes. these codes help protect people both physically and financially by reducing damages to buildings and minimizing disruptions to daily life. hazard resistant building codes are low-cost, high impact collusion that help break the cycles of disaster damage and reconstruction. a 2019 study by the national institute of building sciences found that adopting latest building codes save $11 for every dollar invested. however, about 2/4 of -- 2/3 of communities across the country have not adopted the latest codes. as our risks grow such investments will become even more valuable. in addition, fema's other programs and activities that address the risks posed by extreme wind hazards. fema funds funding for eligible
projects through hazard mitigation grants. these grants provide our partners with a reliable stream of funding for larger mitigation projects through nationwide grant programs. while fema stands ready to respond when disasters occur, we recognize the true success rests in mitigating the worst impacts before they happen. at fema, a cornerstone of our mitigation efforts is the building resilient infrastructure and communities program, also known as brick. it provides a critical opportunity to invest in more resilient nation, reduce disaster suffering, and lessen future costs. earlier this year president biden visited fema and announced he was increasing the funding available for the brick program for $1 billion for the f.y.2021 application period. this will protect lives and property in the face of future storms and being used to support projects which improve wind resilience such as the construction of community safe rooms and retrofitting facilities.
another important element of fema's mitigation effort is the hazard mitigation grant program. in august president biden approved more than $3.46 billion for the program to a covid-19 disaster applications. this is important for underserved communities that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. our mitigation programs, fema will take equity considerations top of mind and will include them in the competitive scoring process for programs such as brick. as we look to the challenges ahead, such as those posed by climate change and severe wind, fema looks forward to working with both our interagency program partners and members of this committee to build a more resilient nation. thank you for the opportunity to testify. chair stevens: thank you so much, mr. grimm. at this point we are going to turn to our first round of questions. the chair is going to recognize
herself for five minutes. dr. weaver, in your testimony you mentioned that large knowledge gaps remain in aspects of windstorm climatology and hazards near the surface, as well as the development of tools for windstorm impact assessment. can you address what is needed to help close these gaps and why doing so is so important to mitigating the damages effects of windstorms? dr. weaver: thank you for that question. it's a very important issue right now. i think out in the public we assume when we are told the wind speeds in hurricanes that mean we know the precise wind speeds and how they are impacting buildings and other infrastructure at the surface. actually, the opposite is true. we really don't know much about how the surface winds behave, let's say in a landfall hurricane, for example. oftentimes we do not have the
requisite observation of the wind, sometimes even the rainfall environment in those storms. so it poses significant challenges for us to understand precisely what buildings we are experiencing as a hurricane makes landfall. there are efforts, ad hoc efforts led by university scientists, there is some sporadic funding from federal agencies here and there, that funds scientists to actually deploy to the storm ahead of the landfall to set up instrumentation and radars and other equipment. it's not a standardized and well coordinated program. it's mostly a coalition of the willing. we have noted that when we get those measurements they are very important for us to understand what happened at the surface. chair stevens: in our 2019 hearing, there was some discussion that barriers still exist and more needs to be done to facilitate interdisciplinary
collaboration between the scientists and engineers. something we are doing here today. but dr. blevins, do you anticipate new opportunities for large-scale collaborations and natural hazards resilience under the new technology innovation and partnerships directorate at n.s.f.? has that been discussed yet? dr. blevins: thank you, chairwoman. the new directorate proposed in the 2022 president's budget request for technology, innovation and partnerships will be running a competition referred to as the regional innovation accelerator, that's in the plan. that's described in the budget request. and those will be regional centers, if you will, that are designed to bring people together from across the disciplines, which is where n.s.f.'s sweet spot is. bringing folks in special
science as well as engineering, geoscience, etc. and they -- i think that will be the type of opportunity that you are speaking of. chair stevens: that's great. today's tools, dr. weaver, such as field measurements, wind tunnel testing and modeling, and post disaster surveys generate an enormous amount of data. do you mind explaining how it facilitates research on development and application of methods in artificial intelligence? some of these new technologies and applications we are all yours. dr. weaver: i can't speak directly to artificial intelligence. however, what i can tell you is that -- we developed an interagency post windstorm coordination plan for hurricane landfall specifically at this
point. we are using that plan, which outlines all the different roles of the federal agencies involved, we are using that plan to structure data collection for housing a central database that collects information on -- from noaa on the hazard itself, from the researchers that are out in the field from n.s.f., from fema, from our own employment -- deployment, and trying to integrate all that information so that someone who is conducting a post windstorm investigation could overlay all the social data with the hazard data and building data. there are other efforts out there at fema to have this model that does similar types of things. we are looking to use that plan to bolster the data integration. chair stevens: when we were first talking, my first question here on some of the challenges
to addressing research gaps, just the remaining time available, how much do you assume that those are costs related, if at all? are we talking about sufficient funding here? dr. weaver: we typically do the best we can with the resource that is we have to work across the different agencies. our strategic plan is very comprehensive, to be honest it's a challenge to implement the entire strategic plan. like i said, we try to prioritize and tackle what we can for the best of our ability. chair stevens: great. thank you so much. with that my five minutes are up. i'm going to turn to mr. waltz for five minutes of questioning. mr. waltz: thank you. we'll see if the technology holds this time. dr. blevins, the n.s.f. supports
i think you mentioned the wall of wind experimental facility in florida international university. as you know it's capable of stimulating category 5 hurricanes or winds over 150 miles per hour. how is researched performed at user facilities like the wall of wind, then how does that research then transfer to industry? how is it transferred to stakeholders to make improvements, to improve their resiliency of buildings and other forms of infrastructure to windstorm hazards? dr. blevins: thank you. that's a great question. in facilities like the wild wind or the wind tunnel we cause a lot of data on different scenarios. those data are used to develop and improve predictive capabilities for windstorms and other types of event. so through improvement those
predictive capabilities in our simulations, we are able to actually provide input to those who are developing the standards for the buildings. that's a pathway. mr. waltz: how is it -- are you seeing it incorporated? are you satisfied with how it's used? do you wish industry would do more if you had it your way kind of thing? i'm just trying to -- i understand the great research that's going on. i'm trying to better understand how it's utilized? dr. blevins: it's interesting you should mention industry. also in florida we have a relative new, what we call industry university, coordination research center, that particular center is at florida international, called the septre for wind hazard and infrastructure performance. the way it works is they -- the
university scientists and engineers are doing the research, but they have an advisory board that consists of folks from industry. in this particular one it's from the construction industry, from the insurance industry, from the risk assessment industry that are sitting on this board. and those folks are actually selecting the basic competitive research that is going to be done by the university researchers. in that way we really are working hand in hand with our stakeholders from industry. early signs from that are that there's some early interest in some uptick from some of what's going on in the research. mr. waltz: that's great to hear. particularly that the insurance industry is there. i think one of the issues is that we continue to, for a variety of reasons, probably too complex for my couple of
minutes, for a variety of reasons we tend to subsidize and re-enforce bad behavior. in the aftermath of these storms. that's reassuring. i'd love to learn more about that facility and who is participating in the uptake. just in the time i have remaining, for dr. weaver, you already mentioned the 125 homes from hurricane andrew. what our state and local officials in florida did to develop stronger building codes. given that nist deploys research and development to improve model building codes and voluntary consistent standards, best practices, can you elaborate a little bit more on how it works with standards like international code council and communities to adopt windstorm resilient building codes to avoid widespread losses similar to those from hurricane andrew?
dr. weaver: sure. great question. nist is not regulator develop the actual building code. what their role principally is in developing actionable science that cuss used to guide the processes that underpin standards development and code development implementation. a great example not necessarily really to hurricanes at this point, but a very new example is that out of our joplin, missouri, extraordinary investigation, one of the recommendations was develop tornado maps to guide the implementation of safe design for the tornado hazard. this is the first time this is ever being done. previous to theefnt it was just -- that event, it was just an act of god. now there are provision that is could be voluntarily used to design for tornadoes. that's going to be coming up in the next american society of civil engineers publication that
comes out in 2022. we work more on the scientific side. i measurement the science issue with the hazards -- i mentioned the measurement science issue with the hazards. we are mission assigned by fema to produce wind mass. we have done it for hurricane irma. we have done it for hurricane dorian. you are expecting that to make landfall, luckily it turned at the last minute, that would have been a significant disaster. we are on the frontlines of that in many different ways. mr. waltz: thanks so much. i certainly didn't intend to suggest that nist would create codes or standards. i think that is rightly at the local level. that's a great example of what you just laid out. madam chawrm, i'm out of time. chair stevens: that was great, thank you.
with that we are going to recognize ms. ross, congresswoman from the great state of north carolina for five minutes of questioning. ms. ross: thank you very much, mad yucca mountain chair -- madam chair. this is a very important issue for north carolina, particularly for our coasts. we have seen more inland tornadoes and other kinds of natural disasters in north carolina. we are no stranger to fema. mr. grimm, i wanted to start with you and ask you a few questions. the first question really has to do with the electrical grid. electricity grid and how it responds to wind events. and wanted to know from you what you think the impact of the new infrastructure package with its funding for upgrading the electric grid and making it more resistant to wind and other
weather events, what effect that would have and whether you think that's -- the funding is sufficient. mr. grimm: thank you. with regard to what fema can provide in terms of mitigation funding and increasing resilience across many lifelines, including the electrical grid in communities, very important. we work with those communities to -- mentioned the brick program in particular. that enables funding for lifelines for not only residential and nonresidential construction, but also for community lifelines. things like electrical grids or power lines, so with the recent announcement of the infrastructure bill, of course, we are very excited to have additional resources made available across the government
to have a government wide mission and movement to make the mission more resilient across multiple natural hazards whether it's windstorms, floods, earthquakes, you name it lifeline impacted by many different types of natural hazards. we need to do a better job as a nation addressing the hazards before they happen, not just after they happen. so predisaster mitigation is extraordinarily important and getting ahead of that. we have shown things like the building codes for example we were talking about. for every dollar invested $11 in return. likewise on mitigation projects. every dollar invested, $6 in return. the cost of different hazard areas. anything we can do to increase our investment ahead of disasters, i think, is a huge step forward. ms. ross: you anticipated my second question which is the potential economic benefits of
designing climate resilient yent businesses. when you talk about $1 invested this much in return, can you be more granular about where those returns come from. mr. grimm: let me expand more on the building codes. minged $1 invested is $11 in return. we also released a codes safe study that we demonstrate $132 billion of losses avoided through the adoption of modern building codes through 2040. $132 billion, that's a huge investment to those losses avoided as we look -- with climate change. when you look across the natural hazards whether it's fire, flood, winds, earthquake there is always a positive return on that investment for every dollar
invested. it ranges from -- i have the figures in front of me probably $4 to $11 depending when you look at the granular data. we often go in post disaster and do what are called loss of wind studies and we look at those investments we made predisaster. on the wind side of things for example, where we went to maryland, after hurricane marilyn in 1995 and we invested hazard grant dollars after harvey, irma, and maria, we went back with our partners on what is called the mitigation assessment team to look at those projects and how they performed. we found that all the projects that we invested those dollars in performed extraordinarily well and resulted in that cost savings that you are asking about. ms. ross: thank you very much.
i see my time's about to expire. at some point maybe with one of the other questions that you get, i'd love to hear how you make investments in low-income communities that might not be able to afford some of the more advanced engineering. with that, madam chair, i yield back. chair stevens: thank you so much. with that the chair will recognize the ranking member of the full committee, mr. lucas, for five minutes of questioning. mr. lucas: thank you, madam chair. i appreciate the importance of this hearing also. all of us who live on the east side of the rockies from the great plains from canada to texas understand how challenging the weather can be. dr. weaver, dr. blevins, we heard about the tornado damage caused in 2011 and how it has changed in leadership and coordination from when the program was last re-authorized. could you compare where we were a decade ago to where we are
now. what have we done well and what's the singular area that needs to be -- most improvement or focus as a committee? dr. weaver: that's very interesting question. originally was led by ostp. in 2015 it was moved to nist as you highlighted. i think that gave giving it a permanent home and also the fact that nist is more of a user of a lot of the information and it's on the ground dealing with the impact and trying to understand that, it's a good pull of information from the other agencies. the coordination is going well in that structure. there are several successions -- successes that we have had. one is our tropical cyclone coordination plan. that's been very important to guide our activities. we conduct add couple of investigations and post windstorms. the joplin toronto came up great recommendations. i mentioned one of those about
tornado designed earlier in the hearing. we are currently doing a hurricane reinvestigation which is very comprehensive and interdisciplinary and provide many recommendations for the entire nation, not just for puerto rico. as far as challenges go, i think one of the unique things about windstorm hazards that we are operating in a situation where the climate is not stationary. with earthquakes you don't have much changing. so many others you don't have much. with you but in waned storm environment we have this evolving climate system. it's hard to use the historical data to get an accurate portrayal when things are shifting so quickly. that's a major challenge for us to understand it. stay ahead of that. thank you. dr. blevins: thank you very much. for me the challenges that we have are around the sharing of
data. we actually did a great job but interoperability of data sets and the -- as dr. weaver mentioned earlier, the ability for different teams going in from different directions and taking data and being able to coordinate all of that. the n.s.f. sends these teams out. we are able to do we call rapids grants for people to go out and take data when they are needed. then we also have these reconnaissance teams we can send out. i think just assembling all of the data and making it readily available is a big challenge. mr. lucas: back to you, dr. weaver, can you please discuss how nist is working with noaa to improve the data and methods for tornado mapping and
damage. dr. weaver: sure. i believe you said with noaa, right? mr. lucas: thank you. dr. weaver: thanks for the clarification. we serve on a wind speed estimation committee. we have our engineers that serve with noaa. and noaa leads this wind speed standard estimation committee. as i mention the -- mentioned previously, one of our lead investigators is very prominent in actively supporting that committee to develop recommendations and to develop science that can be used for national tornado designs, for infrastructure and for other critical facilities. that's how we partner with them on the tornadoes. mr. lucas: in my remaining time, can you discuss, how do you ensure it meets its work force demands especially as windstorm hazards are increasing. how do you get enough people
there? do you have enough people there? mr. grimm: thank you. certainly the amount of work that fema has in front of us every year is a tremendous amount of work whether it's responding to disasters or mitigating disasters or preparing for disasters. we have an outstanding cadre of resources to respond to disasters. through, give you an example, throughout the pandemic fema has had to really change its posture on how we do business. that is including how we respond to disasters and how we run programs like the windstorm impact program. across the board. how do we deploy people. find new ways to do things. for example we have found technology enables us to deliver programs. it enables us to deliver on disaster assistance. we have programs such as fema
corps, groups of young people who are just excited and outstanding who get out in disasters and help our disaster survivors recover mr. lucas: my time has expired. chair stevens: thank you. with that we'll recognize -- drf questioning. mr. foster: thank you. am i visible here? chair stevens: perfect. mr. foster: thank you. thank the witnesses for joining us here today and taking time out from what i presume your detailed planning how you'll invest the funds from the bipartisan infrastructure bill we sent you last week. my first question about tornado research. dr. blevins, i was particularly interested in your testimony on
n.s.f. tornado research. back on june 20, tornado swept through my district in suburban chicago and caused millions of dollars in damage and some cases complete destruction to homes and property in my district. fortunately, no lives were lost in large part because of the cell phone warnings that allowed people to seek shelter. often only minutes or second before the tornado hit. constituents in my district don't have to be convinced about the detailed and timely information. there is a program known as the targeted observation by radars and u.s.a. of super cells. which is designed to increase understanding of strong storm structures that may be attributed to tornado genesis. but this was paused due to the covid pandemic. do you have any knowledge when it is expected to resume research? do you know how much data they were able to gather before putting the work on pause?
and if any of this has been usable by noaa in the interim? dr. blevins: thank you for the question. it is a very exciting project that is centered at the university of nebraska that involves a number of other institutions. i understand that they were originally scheduled to do field campaigns in 2019 and 2020. they were able to do the campaign in 2019 and i think they paused for 2020 and 2021. my understanding is that they should pick back up again in 2022. i think that is what -- that experiment -- mr. foster: how do you -- compared to just increasing the quality and the density of fixed ground base measurements?
dr. blevins: i think they are going to become much more important as we move ahead. getting the data in the real world. i think n.s.f. has a really great mechanism to send teams out to do that through its rapid funding mechanism. we can actually get those -- we ask them to justify why they can't get the data any other way other than doing this. we are able to get those awards out sometimes as quickly as just a couple of days turn around. n.s.f. is geared up. we also have a facility that's -- centered out of university of washington that we call the rapid facilities. theneado which pulls together and coordinates the data that comes from the use of the equipment that's provided
by the rapid facility. our rapid reconnaissance teams. and others. they are able to coordinate it. we are geared up and we are ready for the increasing importance of getting these kinds of quick turn around data. mr. foster: i look forward to the future where swarms of drones fly into super cells and get detailed information that allows us to have better predictive models. next question has to do with, witnesses have pointed out, we are not making investments despite the fact that they have a huge return on investment. think dr. grimm mentioned 11 to 1. it surprises me when there is an 11 to 1 return on investment and private markets are not making that investment. do you have any insight why markets have failed to address this issue? why do the reduction in insurance rates justify paying for these investments ahead of
time? is there anything that government can do to deal with this apparent market failure? i guess dr. grimm, since he's an extension of the return on investment. mr. grimm: thank you. it is a real challenge to get investments in mitigation at all different levels. i emphasize the importance of predisaster mitigation programs and getting out there and doing better risk communications. so homeowners truly understand their risk. whether it's from flood or earthquake or wind, a lot of folks think that they may not be at risk because they haven't experienced an event or loved one. it's really personal. and doing bipartisan job at risk communication across the nation, not just the federal government,
but all levels. and teaming with the private sector. for example in the insurance arena, very important partner that we have who use data sets that we produce here at fema and use data sets for example from noaa and other agencies. we recently put out what they called the national risk index. it's very unique. it looks at 18 different natural hazards across the nation. it brings in social vulnerability. and it brings in resilience. it gives you a risk index. anybody can type in their address and find out what risks and hazards they may be at risk from. and what actions they can take. what investments they could make. so the private sector firms are learning or n.r.i., national risk index, in their risk communications. and just doing a better job for ever to state, local, tribal territory level to understand
what investments to make. see that return on investment. mr. foster: looks like my time has expired. i yield back. chair stevens: with that we are going to go to dr. baird for five minutes of questioning. mr. baird: thank you, chairwoman stevens and ranking member waltz. and also the committee ranking member lucas. i always appreciate all the witnesses taking time to be with us and sharing their expertise and knowledge and background. it helps us make a better decision as we discuss legislation. my first question really goes to all the witnesses. the natural hazardous engineering research infrastructure has been rewarded $5 million in funding by the n.s.f. through 2025. its network coordinating office is physically located at purdue university, my alma mater, the
administration's headquarters for the program's nationwide network of 11 research facilities. what i'd like to know is, can each of you speak to the importance of having an integrated approach to these natural disaster research? and then how we might help or what congress might do regarding these hazard specific programs and how we can better work together. with that i would start with dr. dr. weaver: thank you for the question, dr. baird. i think one of the unique things about disasters and studying them is that you need a highly interdisciplinary team. i look at our current investigation of hurricane maria. on that team you have meteorologists, climate scientists, engineers of different types, social scientists, enpeople yol gists. epidemiologies. i think we are so focused on the
hazard. speaking as a meteorologist and climate scientist, that's where i tend to go as well. i'm guilty of that. we tend to focus on the hazard, which is important, and the changes are important. but i think we also need a recognition that we really need to interdisciplinary in our approach. that's not easy. it's a challenge because we all speak different languages. different scientific languages. it's truly difficult to do that. i would like to see more support. however it comes. or interdisciplinary research when it comes to disasters. to nurture that integration. mr. baird: thank you very much for their perspective. dr. blevins, would you care to elaborate -- elaborate on than the coordination on this research? dr. blevins: yes. thank you, representative baird. i've actually been to the purdue coordinating office. i'm actually a purdue alumni myself.
my ph.d. in mechanical engineering from there. i was able to go in 2019 and visit. i met the director anti-principal investigator. they gave me a wonderful presentation on all the great things that they are doing to coordinate all the different kinds of research that we are doing on earthquakes, on wind, and on water events across the varies networks. this facility, this piece of the narrative facility really points out and emphasizes the strength of n.s.f. which is to bring all the disciplines together. we fund basic research across all the different science and engineering disciplines. and we are -- one of our 10 big ideas is in increasing convergence research which is really taking interdisciplinary research up a notch to the next
level to really be able to do big things that no discipline can do by itself. the other thing that i want to point out about that particular rotation at purdue is the education and work force piece. everything we fund at n.s.f. integrates research with education, but that particular site at purdue coordinates the research for under graduates program. and really creates those opportunities for undergraduates to get interested in research in natural disasters. this is a field that can really inspire people. just preparing for this hearing really inspired me and looking across the breadth of research in this area and just the importance of it for reducing the loss of life and property for the nation. i think that that's one area
where a facility, site like the purdue side can really contribute. the other thing that that site does is it really engages in unified sort of outreach to educate the public about the work that's being done. and they can do that across the mull tip the hazards which -- multiple hazards which you already mentioned and increasingly these things are actually happening together. so i think having a coordination office like that is really critical. mr. baird: thank you very much. i appreciate that perspective. mr. grimm, i've run out of time. i would really like to get your perspective. with that i yield back. chair stevens: good question for the record. with that the chair will recognize congresswoman wild for five minutes of questioning. ms. wild: thank you so much, madam chair. i'm just so glad we are having this hearing. i represent pennsylvania's seventh district, the greater lehigh valley area.
for those of you who aren't familiar with the geography of pennsylvania, it's on the eastern side of the state. between about midway between philadelphia and scranton. it's an area that is very, very susceptible to storm related flooding. we have two rivers that, unfortunately, almost routinely flood. the concept of 100-year floods have been now become every couple of year floods in our district. this is a really timely hearing. one of the things i wanted to follow up on. dr. weaver, with regard -- this is really for anybody who wants to comment, on the interdisciplinary area of this kind of research, the human element of disaster preparedness and response and recovery is so important. it's become really vital here in my district.
and i'd love to hear from any of you how the national windstorm impact reduction program leverages social clients research to accomplish the goals of the program to protect life and property. dr. weaver: i'm happy to start. in work writ large as well as nist as an agenty, speaking for both, we value social science. in our investigation of hurricane maria we had several social scientists on the team. there are projects that underpin the larger investigation that focus explicitly on social impacts, social and economic impacts. we know as i just mentioned it's not just about hazard levels. it's about how people respond to warnings. it's about how people prepare. where they prepare. what did they do? what were the impacts and what were they thinking? as far as the program, it has incorporated social sighins objectives into its strategy plan. they are there, on paper.
something that guides our strategy. and then i'll just say the agencies, they participate in several workshops that are led by social sciences in the natural hazards space. one is the natural hazards center at the university of colorado. they have an annual workshop. and many of our agencies figure prominently in that workshop. we are very supportive. it's necessary to bring that into the fold. ms. wild: dr. blevins or mr. grimm. did you want to respond further? dr. blevins: i'd like to say something. i just want to mention that the n.s.f. has a whole directorate called the social behavior directorate. they are important partners in this work. they look at how people respond to emergency warnings. understanding what moat gates or keeps people from preparing
their homes or their local environments to be more resilient to storms. and even recently we have a couple of rapid we have been funding to look at people's attitudes towards, for example, evacuating during the pandemic and going to a shelter when we are having a pandemic and whether they felt safer in their homes versus in the shelter with loot of other people, even when measures were being taken in the shelters to socially distance, etc. i think it's very important. on the flooding part we also have the federally funded research and development center called the national center for spheric research that's helping nef noaa's water model which is very critical to predicting flooding events. ms. wild: thank you very much. nor question -- another question i have in a different direction
for any witness that would like to answer, i'm going to expedite my question since my time is running out. what would it take to design buildings that are optimized for resilience multiple hazards. how might be that be further integrated into energy efishency mr. grimm, can you take that one? mr. grimm: absolutely. when we were together across the agency we look at codes in an all hazards way. energy efficiency is an aspecific -- aspect that can be further developed within many codes. but looking across the different natural hazards and -- particular region, you could be, as you pointed out, your area is subject to flooding. to wind hazards. to other hazards. and working with those communities to adopt -- not change the code that they adopt. to adopt the full code from the
most recent set of codes and not remove specific hazards from them so that we do have a competitive -- comprehensive code. one of the last questions, previous questions talked about the gaps in the data and understanding that data and how we improve the codes as we move through the code cycles. we all work together not just in this -- in the wind space, but also in the flood space, and in other hazards within the interagency. and advocate for those codes. but getting the data and understanding that data translate into what code improvements need to be made. i think dr. weaver pointed out a number of improvements that does interagency we have worked on in the code series. particularly around the research in wind. we mentioned hurricane andrew. hurricane marilyn.
harvey, irma, maria as well resulted in certain code changes. likewise we'll be working in the multihazard space to ensure codes are addressing multihazard for those areas and geographies. ms. wild: thank you so much. with that my time is up and i yield back. chair stevens: thank you, congresswoman. with that the chair will recognize congressman gonzalez for five minutes of questioning. mr. gonzalez: thank you, madam chair, for holding this important hearing today. thank you to our witness force share their expertise. as our witnesses have described the negative effects windstorms have on all our communities. while they are based on region, in my home state of ohio, tornado and storms have caused great injuries and property destruction and even death. don't remember that happening as much as a kid. feels like it's happening more often. i believe the data is starting to bear that out.
dr. blevins, i want to start with you. you noticed -- you noted the use of a.i. has already had a significant impact on addressing the research needs of pressing environmental concerns. i want you to dive deep on that for me. how do you see a.i. playing a role in tracking future windstorms? what does that technology look like today? dr. blevins: thank you. despite 18 months of this i still can't find the unmute button. thanks for the question. we have a program called the a.i. institute -- a.i. research institute program, the major program, flagship program we have been running for the last couple years as a foundation. this creates big coalitions of folks, different kinds of researchers, different kinds of institutions coming together to
collaborate. an important one of these is called a.i. to e.s. this is a.i. for environmental science. and this is actually out of the university of oklahoma is the lead institution, of course there are many institutions involved. this is really aiming to take the tools of machine learning and artificial intelligence and tell us more about what's going on with these types of storms, windstorms being one of them. and one of those types. so i think that the community is resilience research community is very excited about bringing these tools, artificial intelligence, machine learning online. i think it's going to help to take some of the routine, determinations, and work out of it. and the artificial intelligence
can be used and the machine learning by training the models can be used to -- for us to be able to get to the harder parts that require the human intelligence to intervene that much more efficiently. i think it has great potential and the community's very excited about it. i thank you for that question. mr. gonzalez: what if anything should we be thinking about to help the research community leverage a.i. even more in this area? is there something we can do from a data standpoint? i guess i'll turn it over to you. what else can we do to improve that? dr. blevins: i think part of the issue with using machine learning is having good data sets that are well-defined, they are clean, they have well designed -- defined metadata and assumptions that you could make about the data sets. i think that the kinds of facilities that we have through
ncar and through nari and through nifts and fema all -- nist and fema, all of us working together to get those data sets as clean as possible and improve new measurement techniques, new ways of deploying them in the field. i think anything we can do to make the data better is going to make that technology really shine in making an impact on this program. problem. mr. gonzalez: staying with you. i know i only have just a few seconds. in your testimony you highlight the importance of supporting and preserving research as natural disasters unfold. could you go into detail of how strengthened interagency coordination could result in a more holistic and efficient federal response? dr. blevins: i think we have -- we have a hub called design safe. that's operated -- it's led out
of the university of texas t brings together loot of different types of infrastructure, cyber infrastructure to make that happen. so i -- that's my. mr. gonzalez: i see my time is almost up. with that i yield back to the chair. chair stevens: thank you. thank all our members for the questions. and obviously our witnesses for today's critical hearing on what is obviously much needed in leading to the re-authorization. the purpose of today's hearing was to review the activities, including the importance of interagency collaboration, which is no easy feat. we've got some of the best here and a lot of tremendous expertise. the committee's going to clearly continue to consider new and
evolving challenges to emprove windstorm and windstorm impact resilience and opportunities to improve this program. certainly as we think about our large country and how every state is impacted by windstorms and has a need for resilience, we also want to evaluate who has access to certainly needing the fema dollars in the aftermath of windstorms we had earlier this summer. we think about low-income communities and low-income residents in our communities. who signs up and can get access to resources for resiliencies. particularly as a couple of my colleagues were talking about insurance and access to insurance and the dollars for that. we are going to continue to work
on this certainly the next phase will be our markup and our ability to re-authors this -- re-authorize this program. as chair i want to get there with this. the record will remain open for a couple weeks, two weeks officially, for additional questions or statements from members that they may ask of our witnesses, but at this time our witnesses are excused. our virtual hearing is now adjourned. [captions copyright national w'n