Suffolk Community College’s Hurricane Expert Professor Scott Mandia Discusses Hurricane Irene and other Storms to Come

By Nicole Brems

Every year when hurricane season rolls around Long Islanders wonder if this will be the year they get hit with the big one. The last bad hurricane to hit Long Island was Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and residents have felt due for another bad storm ever since.

As Hurricane Irene made her way up the East Coast during the last week of August, Long Islanders invaded the stores, boarded up their homes, and hunkered down for what seemed to be a big one. But, there was definitely one Long Islander who was more prepared then all the rest, hurricane expert Professor Scott Mandia of Suffolk County Community College. After the storm Professor Mandia discusses how he became a ‘hurricane expert’, Hurricane Irene’s aftermath and how we can prepare for future storms.

Professor Mandia became interested in weather after moving from California to Massachusetts during high school. For the first time he experienced thunderstorms and snow. Also, the father of a close friend worked for Boston NWS and was always showing him maps which, eventually got him hooked on the subject. Deciding to major in Meteorology in College, Professor Mandia explains his focus on hurricanes and how that focus led him to becoming a hurricane expert,

“My thesis was about ocean heat fluxes from tropical thunderstorms so I always had a bit of an interest. I also was in high school in Massachusetts when Hurricane Gloria hit in 1985 and that was exciting to me. I took a graduate geology course at SUNYSB after I moved here and the research paper had to focus on something that changed the geology of Long Island. I knew that the 1938 Hurricane created the Shinnecock Inlet so I chose to research that. I was so intrigued by the hurricane history that I turned the paper into a comprehensive web site. Because of the site, I have become the local go-to expert.”

As the local hurricane expert Professor Mandia contributes to multiple websites including a hurricane website, a climate change/history website/ and a very large global warming website. His work can be found on his faculty home page (http://www2.sunysuffolk/edu/mandias). He has been interviewed about hurricanes on television channels such as The Weather Channel, CNBC, Plum TV, and several radio programs.

Professor Mandia is not one to hype about storms as he puts it,

“The emergency management people do not hype. Some new people do. We really need to be prepared when the season begins June. Always heed evacuation requests and these requests typically come about 48 hours before landfall.”

The topic of evacuations especially hit home for Long Islanders after Hurricane Irene. Prior to the hurricane many residents of Long Island’s south shore were part of a mandatory evacuation. Professor Mandia commented about Irene’s destruction,
“Irene will end up costing BILLIONS. 500,000 homes and businesses without power for up to a week and all this from “just” a tropical storm. This shows us how vulnerable we are to hurricanes. We are expecting a major hurricane such as a Katrina to strike somewhere in the northeast some time this century and when it does we can expect $100 billion+ in damages. The question (of how bad a storm could New York take) is difficult because we will survive a Katrina but, there will be great economic pain and some loss of life when it does happen.”

When asked further about Long Island’s chance of getting hit with a bad hurricane he continued,
“The statistics show that we are 90% likely to get a major hurricane in the 40-50 years. On top of that, humans are warming the planet which is making hurricanes stronger and with more flooding rains that increase the costs. On top of that, this global warming is increasing seas levels which makes storm surges even higher and travel farther inland.”
Professor Mandia suggests going to to help make an emergency kit. He also says to make sure you have a plan. Especially after Hurricane Irene’s effects Professor Mandia’s advice should be heeded and all should be more prepared for the next storm.

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