Brendan O'Shaughnessy | October 6, 2017
A few days after Hurricane Harvey struck Houston and a week after classes started at Notre Dame, Tracy Kijewski-Correa, a structural engineering professor, called about an urgent email while she waited in the car during her son’s tutoring session.
Chase the storm, assess the damage, determine how to improve future construction.
That was the request of GEER, an association of geologists and earth scientists that organizes immediate response teams for earthquakes and other disasters. The group wanted Kijewski-Correa to organize a rapid reconnaissance of Harvey’s massive winds on different types of building structures in a state that does not mandate adoption and enforcement of its residential building code statewide.
While GEER had organized other scientific teams before, it had never done so for structural engineers. Kijewski-Correa would later expand this first-ever, multi-university coordinated response to include hurricanes Irma and Maria, some of the largest ever to hit U.S. territory.
“Reconnaissance brings home why you’re an engineer,” she said. “You’re trying to channel that call to service. We can study math and models, but the human face is different. You look at this house that’s blown apart like toothpicks and it reminds you what nature can do. There’s a certain awe and respect; then as engineers, we pivot to ‘How can we build better?’”