LSU Ph.D. Student Developing New Hurricane Computer Model

BATON ROUGE - LSU Ph.D. student Felix Santiago-Collazo is working to fix a problem that affected his family and his home country of Puerto Rico: the strength and impact of a hurricane. He’s developing a computer model that can predict both rainfall runoff and storm surge. 

“During a hurricane impact you have two common events: you have rainfall and you have storm surge. These two happen simultaneously or in close succession. Usually, the stakeholders, as well as the modelers, they take these two separately and they do not take into account the combined effect of both during the hurricane,” Santiago-Collazo said.

In September 2017, Felix was home in Puerto Rico finishing up his master’s degree at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, when Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

“In my hometown, we were 21 days without electricity and it was pretty difficult because southwest Puerto Rico didn’t have almost any telecommunications. We had to drive for more than an hour-and-a-half to get a phone call or Internet.”

He said that experience motivated him the new computer model. He was able to finish his master’s degree, and moved to Baton Rouge to begin his Ph.D. in LSU's Department of Civil & Envionmental Engineering.

“What we want to do is a numerical code that can quantify this combination of both flooding mechanisms and we can have it all in a single platform to be easier for stakeholders and for agencies to delineate and determine the compound flooding that can affect during a hurricane impact,” Santiago-Collazo said.

The National Science Foundation is funding his graduate work in civil engineering at LSU.

“Our goal is that this research can be applied anywhere in the world in which you have a low lying coastal (area) and you have a river interaction. So, this can help any area that is vulnerable and it just has to be done,” Santiago-Collazo said. “It will save time, it will be more computationally efficient, it will represent a more realistic flooding zone that can help prevent disasters to property. It could help save lives and it can also avoid losses.”




Contact Rachel Holland
LSU Media Relations