Hurricane Pam: the eye of the storm

The Senate committee investigating federal management of Hurricane Katrina is looking closely at the simulation, “Hurricane Pam”. Except for the death toll, “Pams” scenario was very realistic, but what does that mean?

[u>Deaths: [/u>
“Pam” :up to 60,000. Katrina: 1200 bodies found, 2700 people still listed as missing
Pam: 10 to 20 feet of water Katina: up to 20 feet of water
[u>Collapsed buildings:[/u>
Pam: 234,000; Katrina 250,000
[u>Residents without power:[/u>
Pam 786,000; Katrina 881,400
[u>People evacuated or displaced:[/u>
Pam more than a million; Katrina more than a million

Does this prove anything? Well, its quite easy to make realistic simulations of natural phenomena. Depth of flooding, for instance, depends on geography and wave height. Consequential effects can also be fairly easy to work out – eg number of poeple without power or evacuated.

However the problem is to get people to act on your results. This is because simulations are always a what if activity. Its usually possible to do another simulation, based on different assumptions.

If you dont take to the basic premise (eg “there will be a major hurricane”) all the maths in the world dont help much.

Credibility is an asset. Presentation also helps. Simulation techniques can directly affect the latter, but not always the former.

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