News: CJ Exclusives

Universities Plan Disaster Response

Program will address mountain and coastal natural disasters

A program administered by Duke, North Carolina State, and UNC-Chapel Hill universities will establish off-campus sites to improve response to disasters in eastern and western North Carolina.

The Renaissance Computing Institute will open offices next year in Asheville, in conjunction with UNC-Asheville, and in Greenville, which will be affiliated with East Carolina University. The institute will fund the sites for three years.

The institute’s move to Asheville and Greenville is part of a plan, according to director Dan Reed, to create a statewide conglomerate that will “address issues of state and national importance.”

The organization, which was founded in 2004 with base offices at UNC-Chapel Hill, plans to announce additional sites in the future. A location at NCSU’s Centennial Campus will open later this year, while ones at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke will open next year.

“These sites will bring a new core of university and community expertise to bear on important problems that can’t be solved by one campus, one discipline or one region of the state,” Reed said.

At UNC-Asheville, the institute will work with the National Climate Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The organizations will attempt to “develop high-resolution, near real-time weather models for disaster planning and response in mountainous areas that are often plagued by floods and mudslides,” a press release says.

At ECU, the organization will establish programs to protect North Carolina’s coast. The group will create an information system that will include public health records, records of geological, biological, and chemical processes, inventories of disaster response resources, and other information. The institute will partner with ECU’s Center for Coastal Systems Informatics and Modeling.

“Preserving the Carolina coastline is key to the environmental and economic health of the region,” ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said. “ECU’s partnership with RENCI will help our researchers synthesize valuable data and continue to make a difference in the lives of people in eastern North Carolina.”

Shannon Blosser is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.