Daytona Beach, FL – A team of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students and professors are partnering up to study the effects of mass evacuations during Hurricane Irma, and the group hopes to use the data to find ways of conducting smoother evacuations in the future.
The study has already kicked off, and it will continue through February of 2019. It will primarily focus on data from the effects of gas shortages and gridlock traffic after Irma ripped through Florida last September.
Sirish Namilae, assistant professor of Aerospace Engineering, is leading the project, along with Dahai Liu, a professor with the School of Graduate Studies. Sabique Islam and Dimitrios Garis are assisting as graduate students in the study.
The study will employ the use of Embry-Riddle’s Cray CS cluster supercomputer. The computer can use simulations in order to calculate fuel levels of individual cars, evacuation routes, number of lanes on various roads, gas station locations and incidents of emergencies and traffic jams due to random accidents and gas shortages.
“By conducting simulation runs within specified parameters, we hope to get a better picture of what occurs when the masses are forced to move along a particular path and how it affects them,” says Garis. “We hope this research will provide emergency evacuation planners with an idea of what can be done to help speed up traffic flow and ensure evacuees make it out of the danger areas faster.”
The data collected will also provide the U.S. Department of Transportation with valuable information about the vulnerabilities in transportation resources in order to better equip Floridians to avoid fuel shortages during hurricanes in the future.
Namilae is adapting a mathematical model that a previous team developed to study pedestrian movement and the spread of epidemic diseases. He is using that model to compare to what happens during fuel shortages during evacuations.
Namilae compares fuel shortages during hurricanes to epidemics. “If one gas station goes out of gas, nearby gas stations could be affected by that,” Namilae explains. “If you know in advance which areas will be hardest hit, priority treatment can be given to refueling those gas stations.”
The research is part of a sub-grant from the Center for Advanced Transportation Mobility, which is led by North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University through the DOT’s University Transportation Centers Program.
Photo courtesy Trong Nguyen and Shutterstock.com.