Chef Michael Schwartz owns Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, a Miami Design District dining sensation that has been the subject of much local and national acclaim since opening in 2007. Among the recognition Schwartz has garnered, Michael’s Genuine was named one of the 10 best new restaurants in the country by The New York Times; was included in Food & Wine’s 2008 Go List; and named to Condé Nast’s 2008 Hot List. He plans to release his first cookbook in early 2011. Schwartz’s championing of local farmers and organic products, has placed him at the forefront of a grassroots movement that has helped focus attention on South Florida and its agricultural bounty nationwide.

On the heels of taking home the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef: South in 2010, Schwartz recently opened his first outpost of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman. His first cookbook, Michael’s Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat (Clarkson Potter in 2011,) is now available for pre-sale on For more information, visit, the restaurant’s blog at, or follow the chef at

He spoke about his food preparation philosophies and working in a storm zone.

What is your general philosophy about food and food preparation?
It’s pretty obvious – it’s all about the food. We spend a tremendous amount of time researching local food, spending time with the people who grow and catch it. … Supporting them is our [main focus].

How is that affected or how is it different operating and opening restaurants in storm-affected areas in Florida and the Cayman Islands?
You have to go about business as usual. If you planned around every storm and around all the storm damage, you wouldn’t be doing very much. You have to have that in mind, keep in mind during storm season, ‘How would this affect us?’. You keep it under consideration, but it shouldn’t rule our lives.
[The Cayman Islands] are pretty prone to storms. But we haven’t opened yet, so it remains to be seen. It’s the same outlook. As you rebuild [from storms], buildings are built better, safer. … You’re learning from past experiences – but it’s susceptible to the same things as in South Florida.

Have you been personally affected by any storms in Florida or elsewhere? How does that affect your approach to your restaurants?
I’ve lived in south Florida for 16 years. I’ve been lucky; we’ve had some close storms, and some pretty hefty ones. I had a restaurant on South Beach, in an area where the power would go out with 15 mile-per-hour winds. But you make sure to store food.
I do remember the race to get open first; whoever opens first had the most business. You stay open as long as you can and re-open the first after [the storm]. People defy those things … we’d be there until we thought it wasn’t safe.
Certain seasons in the past have been more tiresome than others. Now with technology, they can track storms six, seven days out, and it plays head games with you. The news keeps people informed but there are also, I think, some scare tactics. … By November, you need a vacation from hurricane preparedness messages.

How do you think the local population’s approach toward cooking and food is affected by the probability of major storms?
It’s probably subliminal, that you’d want comfort food. I’m sure it influences people’s decisions about what they buy. But comfort food is heavier, and it’s 90 degrees outside.

Are there any special preparations that go into opening and operating restaurants in storm zones? Do you have to change your approach or philosophy during annual storm seasons?
During storm season, there’s a certain amount of hand-holding, mostly with staff, as a storm approaches. You have to be sensitive to people’s needs – if they need to go be with their family. We have to make sure if somebody comes to work, it’s comfortable and if they want to prepare with their family. You keep an open dialogue.

To go with our recipe suggestions, which include using items found at home for emergency situations, are there any suggestions you have for people to keep around? Are there items you make sure to have on hand at your businesses?
We have a generator, so people have the comfort that they need. We don’t really have [power outage] concerns. The restaurant is like a bunker – concrete building, all-impact glass. We’re three years old and haven’t used it as a storm shelter, but we could if we needed to.
As the season approaches, unless you live in a cave, at some point you’ll go buy canned food, batteries, first aid kits. My outlook has changed, because I have the restaurant – there will always be food.

What is your view of the programs at Wholesome Wave, which has a goal of nourishing neighborhoods by supporting increased production and access to healthy, fresh and affordable locally grown food for the well-being of all? Why the focus on providing local, sustainable ingredients?
I met Michel [Nischan of Wholesome Wave] a year ago. He’s a chef, and we had a fun dinner [at the restaurant]. I learned about the Double Value Food Stamps program … and as we got to connect a little bit, we agreed it was needed here. I think it’s needed in most major cities.
We set up a market in Overtown, an under-served community. We worked with Roots in the City and the market supplies fresh foods. The market sells to everybody, but food stamps are worth double. …We love that program.
It’s hugely important to me – before this program, I was the guy trying to bridge the gap between growers and [sellers or consumers]. … This is just a way to bridge that gap. It should be affordable to everybody and accessible to everybody. … It keeps people in low-income communities from eating [junk]. You get more bang for your buck from processed foods and things like potato chips, but that’s not sustainable.

Fresh food without power

Mediterranean chicken pita sandwich with hummus and roasted bell peppers

Serves 4

1 can (1 cup) of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/3 cup of tahini

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper

4 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts, defrosted

Kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper (for seasoning the chicken)

4 frozen pita breads, defrosted

1 jar (1 cup) of roasted red peppers, liquid drained

1 can (1 cup) of marinated, baby artichokes, sliced in half length-wise

1/2 can (1/2 cup) of black olives, seeded and sliced lengthwise

Handful of torn herbs, such as parsley or basil

Extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling to finish)

In a medium bowl, smash the garbanzo beans with the back of a fork until a grainy paste forms

Add the tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil, beating with the fork until fully combined

The hummus won’t be completely smooth but will have some texture to it

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside

Place a large nonstick sauté pan over a butane burner on high heat

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides

When the pan begins to smoke, add each breast

Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the meat turns opaque half way up the side of each breast

Turn each breast over with tongs

The meat should be have a nice sear, and be brown and crisp on top

Cook the breasts for another 5 minutes, until firm but slightly resilient to the touch, or a thermometer inserted into the center reads 165 °F

Remove the chicken from the pan onto a plate to cool

Slice each breast into 1 inch strips.

Wipe the pan clean

Lower the heat to medium and the warm the pitas for 2 minutes on each side, until pliable

Remove the pitas from the pan and slice each in half

To serve, everyone gets two half pita pockets

Open each gently with tongs; spread with hummus and layer with equal portions of sliced chicken breast, roasted red peppers, baby artichokes, olives, and herbs

Drizzle the contents with extra virgin olive oil to finish


Michel Nischan, President/CEO of Wholesome Wave, is the son the son of displaced farmers and grew up with great appreciation for sustainable agriculture. He is the founder and owner of Dressing Room: A Homegrown Restaurant in Westport, Conn.

He has won a 2008 James Beard Foundation award for Best TV Segments for his work on PBS’ “Victory Garden” and author of two best-selling cookbooks – 2004 James Beard Award-winning “Taste Pure and Simple” (Chronicle Books, 2003) and “Homegrown, Pure and Simple” (Chronicle Books, 2005). Nischan’s third cookbook – “Sustainably Delicious: Making the World a Better Place, One Recipe at a Time” – was released this spring.

He spoke about Wholesome Wave’s programs and how they work to bring fresh food resources to all communities.

What is your philosophy about food and food preparation? How might those who share that philosophy be affected by living in storm-affected areas like Florida?
I believe that when food – the growing, the preparing, the accessibility – can be kept as close to home as possible, it creates true food security, which comes when there’s commercial farms, there’s urban farms; there’s food nearby, close to the land. My belief is that when food comes from multiple sources, no matter what happens; if a system fails in one place, it will work in another.
I don’t really have a philosophy of food, but it should come from within 150 miles of where’s someone is, in-season. That way, you get the freshest food and keep dollars within the local community. It’s not in a distribution system taking 80 cents out of every dollar. Culturally speaking, when it happens closer to home, food is richer, fresher. It creates a kind of community that’s rare.
It’s not just because I’m a chef; I come from a farming background, and that’s how the communities were – they backed each other up. It was based around the food. … I believe food is an important part of vibrant neighborhoods and communities. Storms are so random. … One of the first things to happen is infrastructure can be so damaged, you can’t get trucks [with supplies] in fast enough. Florida is set up as an export agricultural state; we helped open the first local produce-only markets in Miami. Most produce leaves – if people are growing a greater percentage of locally-sold crops -when disaster strikes on that basis, you have food before it’s clear and trucks can come through.
I’m a huge proponent of box gardens, personal gardening. Someone’s food is going to survive. In hurricane regions, food production contingencies … are very important.

Can you tell me about bringing the Double Value Coupon Program to a Miami farmers’ market – what drew Wholesome Wave to partner with that community?
Michael [Schwartz] did, actually. We’re now this year in 18 states, with more than 60 organizations, operating at 150-175 farmers’ markets in a variety of communities. The local people are the reason we’ve been able to grow – if we were going into Miami our own to set something up, we don’t know what community’s in the most need.
Human Services Coalition has dealt with issues in this community. When Michael introduced me to the community, I started visiting. Jackie Sayet helped identify it because of Overtown’s community. They now have four urban garden plots – it’s like a little Garden of Eden in one of Miami’s most underserved communities.

Are there unique barriers for residents in economically poor communities that lie in storm zones?
Florida is unique – it’s the only state in the country that we’ve worked in where the majority of farmers’ markets are selling from for-profit organizations. They’re reselling imported produce, some from California or Mexico. They offer a wide variety of things, including the food, but very little of the fruits and vegetables are from Florida. Most Californians have agreements with locally-owned farms. That was a head-scratcher for us because California works intra-state as well. From my perspective – and it’s theoretic because I don’t pretend to know how the state is set up for emergencies – it’s been very different to do things. It seems like common sense that if there was more local food, even if four hurricanes struck, it wouldn’t wipe out all the agriculture.
When you look at the immediate need of food relief, what you want to do is make food more available to the local community. Outside of the cities, there’s a decent amount of land that could be planned to serve people in need. I’m not sure anyone in the area is looking at the need in that way.

How can people incorporate green ingredients in cooking during emergencies?
They should absolutely try to grow their own garden. Things grow really fast there, and a hurricane will absolutely destroy any planted land. In the outskirts, if they’ve lost power and lost water, trees are down – if they have a garden, they have food.
When you look at the price of organic fruit – in-season, it’s cheaper than buying non-organic out of season. So buy it in season – four or five flats – and freeze it. Strawberries can become jams. If the food is planted locally, you can absolutely subsist – radishes, lettuce, beans.

Can you share any personal experiences you’ve had with major storms? How has the aftermath of the storm affected your or others’ access to green foods?
I grew up in the Midwest, and my mom would always have these things ready. She was always over-prepared. We’re lucky we didn’t have to deal with [tornadoes and other storms], but if we did, I’m sure people would be coming from all over the neighborhood to our house. If you are generally freezing food and want to be able to cook it, you have to have those means.
My family we would have been really good for four days to a week.


Michelle Bernstein, a Miami native, owns several Florida restaurants – Michy’s and Sra. Martinez in Miami and Michelle Bernstein Restaurant and MB Terrace at The Omphoy Ocean Resort in Palm Springs. A 2007 winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef South, Bernstein is the author of 2008’s “Cuisine a Latina.” Her restaurants have garnered praise from around the culinary community, with Best New Restaurant prizes going to Michy’s (2006) and Sra. Martinez (2009). Her establishments were featured on the 2008 Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure Go List. She was the co-host of Melting Pot on Food Network and a victorius competitor on the network’s Iron Chef program.

Bernstein is also involved in Common Threads, an organization dedicated to educating children about the iportance of nutrition and physical well-being, which helps them gain an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking. She spoke about operating restaurants in storm zones and the considerations that must be made when disasters are a regular concern.

What is your general philosophy about food and food preparation?
I always try to start with a protein and produce, grown in south Florida. … I always participate and keep up with what is sustainable and what best practices. What is more green – whether it is grass-fed beef or something else. I try to always buy food that’s good for our future children as well. Using foods that are not over-fished, which is hard around here. Through efforts of lots of local chefs, we back up our farmers. Many can’t get their food from farm to restaurant … we’re trying to help them get it to us.

How is that affected or how is it different operating and opening restaurants in storm-affected areas in Florida?
If we can’t get [local food] here, we go close by to get it. If we can’t get it from Homestead, we go [near there]. Then we’d go to the Carolinas. If we all get hit, I’m afraid it’s a lot of dried pasta.

Are there any special preparations that go into opening and operating restaurants in storm zones? Do you have to change your approach or philosophy during annual storm seasons?
We try to talk about [storms] and keep people aware. Those of us from here try to remain optimistic; always be prepared. … I try to board up the windows as quickly as possible – [and think], do employees need to stay with us because their place isn’t as safe.
I don’t like to think about that too much, because if you worry about it I feel like it’s more likely to happen. … You can’t make yourself crazy because if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.

How do you think the local population’s approach toward cooking and food is affected by the probability of major storms?
Florida residents – I think [their approach to food is affected by the weather]. ‘Locavore’ is a big word here in the last year. It’s a big chef initiative. Farmers’ markets are popping up within the last year, literally. The want and need for it – it had to happen. … Transplants, especially from California and elsewhere, they want it, they need it. Sometimes we’re slower here in Miami to embrace things. But if we do it slower, we hopefully do it better.

Have you been personally affected by any storms in Florida or elsewhere? How does that affect your approach to your restaurants?
When [Hurricane] Andrew hit, I was very young. My dad was sick and my mom was with him in the hospital, so it was just my sister and me at home; we had no power for, like, a month. We had gas burners, liquids and canned foods. … [Times like that], we eat more black beans than you can shake a stick at.
Things change a lot [during storms], especially when you’re desperate. You do what you’ve got to do – you get creative. It’s a more primitive way of thinking and cooking. … There was an event a few years for a big organization – the power went out, not because of storms but because a truck ran into a pole. We were cooking for families with children with disabilities. We just pulled out the trusty flashlights and candles … and cooked with gas and just went for it. … People remember not to freak out and do what they have to do – it keeps you sane.
I’ve [had to operate without power] four times at the restaurant. You have to have light – flashlights and candles. You go with your nose and mouth, trusting those senses. It’s not going to be the prettiest thing, but if it tastes good in your mouth, it feels good, then it’s fine.

For emergency situations, are there any suggestions you have for food for people to keep around? Are there items you make sure to have on hand at your businesses?
When it’s storm season, everybody thinks barbecue – things that can be done outdoors. … Lots of non-perishable foods. …Keep the bathtubs full of fresh, clean water – those are things a lot of people don’t think about. Also, mosquito repellent – that’s huge. Have lots of ice on hand; there’s no real way of washing things off. Use lots of [Wipees]. You have to keep things as clean as possible, as hygienic as possible for people.

Fresh food without power

Roast Chicken by the fire

This is one of my favorite things to do! I actually was raised in a house with a fireplace, so when hurricane Andrew hit, we had to get creative. Years later, in Provence, I learned the proper technique to this type of cooking and I truly believe it’s one of the most delicious ways to cook.

Roast Chicken by the fire:

1 (2-3 lb.) Free Range All Natural fed Chicken


4 cloves garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme

Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Place a long piece of Kitchen string in water.

Mix all ingredients for the Marinade. Coat the chicken in the marinade for about 2 hours. Reserve the marinade for later.

Start you fire in the fireplace, You need to allow the fire to burn until the embers are glowing; Keep adding fresh wood to the fire, as it really needs to burn hot!

Truss the chicken with the kitchen string, wrapping it a few times over, push the string through the bird so it comes out the bottom side, leaving at least 12 inches for it to hang off a hook or a screw in front of the fire. Hang the bird securing the string tightly on the hook or screw. Place an aluminum or metal pan under the chicken to catch the drippings.

As often as you can, spin the chicken so that it rotates around and gets heat on all sides. Meanwhile, baste the bird with leftover marinade. Cook the chicken for about 1 to 1.5 hours or until cooked. I love to make a vinaigrette using the drippings and serve the chicken with a salad tossed in the drippings or warm vegetables heated in the drippings.

Featured Column, Featured News, Interview
P!Nterview: Haiti and Hurricane Season 2010

Fonkoze, a Haitian micro-financial institution (MFI) and anti-poverty organization that is one of the most respected in the world, shares information about Haiti’s needs this storm season

Q: What is the most pressing issue for Haitians this hurricane season?
A: In Port-au-Prince, where thousands are living in tent cities, you don’t need help to see what the biggest problem is. It’s housing. The same is true for my region, Marigot. In my region, most people are living in homes — but they’re in bad shape. Most homes survived the earthquake but they now have cracked walls and foundations. We don’t know how well these structures will hold up in heavy wind and rains.

Q: How has Fonkoze specifically been able to recover and rebuild? What do you see in terms of individuals’ progress in recovery?
A: We’ve been able to respond strongly. Fonkoze was up and running well before other financial institutions, which has been good for us. We don’t look as impressive as the commercial banks, for example. Our buildings are not flashy. But our expertise and operational strengths are intense. And the relative [simplicity] of our operations became an asset. Commercial banks, with more sophisticated infrastructures, had a much harder time restarting their operations.

Q: What is the current greatest need among your clients and the communities you serve?
A: Finding a source of income to meet basic daily needs. Despite the help we offer, we are encountering many women for whom it will be difficult to move into our larger loan programs. Thus, one program that needs a lot of investment now is our Ti Kredi program. Ti Kredi (Little Credit) gives $25 USD loans instead of the larger $125 USD loans given to borrowers in our standard solidarity group credit program. In addition, Ti Kredi borrowers get six months of intense financial literacy training and small business support to help them create and build a stable income stream. There is an enormous need now to grow that program, which will allow women to then have access to larger credit pools.


Q: Are homeless and displaced people able to benefit from these programs?
A: Yes and no. Ti Kredi is a way to have an income generating activity, and what you do with that income depends on your need. On the other hand, we have women that do not have safe, permanent housing and are antsy about starting a new business and investing in merchandise because their homes still have large open cracks in the walls. They don’t have the security they normally would, to be able to lock away their goods. We help by extending credit to all [people] regardless of their housing situation, but it would be very helpful to help these women access safe housing as a starting point.

Q: In February, Dr. Paul Farmer shared blunt recommendations with the U.S. Senate regarding the United States’ role in Haiti’s recovery. He mentioned the role non-profits play, specifically foreign non-profits. What is the best way foreign non-profits like PLAN!T NOW can have a positive role in rebuilding and preparing Haiti for this storm season and those to come?
A: I see two problems in the way many foreign entities – not just non-profits, are working here today.

1. It is really important for the long-term development of Haiti, just like any other nation, that the elected government exercises the authority its people have given it. As far as I can see, a lot of international intervention is occurring in Haiti without any reference to Haitian government leaders. This weakens the government’s ability to play even a coordinating role in the recovery. That has to be bad for the people. These foreign groups say the government lacks the capacity to do this work, but they must have the patience to work with them because otherwise Haitian sovereignty itself is at risk.

2. A lot of groups coming here do not know the country. They don’t know the people or how to make accurate evaluations of what is needed and who the best people and groups are to address those needs. For this they must have experienced Haitian partners. Fonkoze, for instance, is 100 percent Haitian. It was founded by Haitians, and most of its staff and leadership are Haitian. I’m a Fonkoze Branch Manager, and there are over 40 branches nationwide. All but the branch I work in is run by Haitians. Fonkoze, is in every part of the country, so we have a genuine national presence and intimate understanding of the culture, politics and history here. Meanwhile, we see foreign organizations with the best of intentions, landing here – and spending money with the first person they see who seems qualified to help them achieve their goals. They have no way of evaluating whether the people or groups they’ve partnered with are who they say they are. Thus, we have seen many examples of the wrong people getting the wrong kind of help. Again, to resolve this, we urge foreign groups to research and find trusted Haitian groups to partner with for recovery work.

Featured Column, Interview, Resources-BI, Resources-GI

P!Nsider tips: Building Homes in a Storm Zone
Meet Robert Coleman, President of Category Five Homes, Inc., a Southeastern builder specializing in hurricane-safe homes. P!N’s Julia Dawson contacted Robert to learn more about what makes a structure storm-safe. Whether you live in an apartment or home, if you’re in a hurricane zone – this interview is a must-read. Let the questions here inspire you to investigate if builders and code departments where you live are storm-safe.

Q: Your presentation suggests that the technology you use, monolithic concrete roofs and walls with steel rebar reinforcement to form house frames, is not mandated by state building codes or Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “Shelters in Place” codes. Correct?
A: Correct. The technology … is often used in commercial construction projects. Residential builders (because of the myth that concrete is too expensive) use wood for the roof and wall framing. Such materials and methods are near obsolete, but are still allowed by state building codes [in most areas]. Even with straps, wooden roofs are still vulnerable to flying objects during hurricanes. Even if the house withstands the storm, if the roof is opened, the interior is exposed to wind and water. In just days, mold, moisture, and rot condemn any chance to repair damage to the house and its contents..

We need stronger federal and state building codes. Dade and Broward Counties (Miami area) have the highest building code requirements in the United States and are great models.

Q: Why do builders not use the safest storm technology to protect homes to withstand extreme weather?
A: Unfortunately, some builders see a home damaged by a storm as a chance for new work and expensive repairs. Most code departments, until recently, have had minimal regulations to protect coastal homes from hurricanes. Since 2004, new rules have appeared in the codebooks, and inspectors are enforcing these rules, lobbied by insurance companies.

Q: How do your homes compare in cost to consumers versus the average local market homes?
A: The difference in cost is minimal when you consider the lifetime of the home and savings in insurance, maintenance [and] energy efficiency. Take, for example, our poured-in-place concrete pitched roof. Builders today continue to use wood truss roofing systems, which are highly vulnerable to tornado-force winds. The likeliness of penetrating a concrete roof or wall is far less than [one] made with wood. Our window and door systems use glass and aluminum framing that is missile-impact resistant.

Research today estimates a wooden house will last 25-30 years with proper maintenance. A monolithic concrete constructed house can last for generations.

Q: How did you determine that your roofs, windows, and doors, withstand 300 mph winds? When you say your homes are 30-40 percent more energy-efficient, what does the percentage refer to – 30-40 percent less spent on heating and cooling per year?
A: Our products have been tested through several labs ,… including [at] Texas Tech University. One test involved a cannon that shoots an object at speeds of up to 100 mph into wall panels built with wood, brick, metal [or] solid concrete. Concrete was the only material to resist the object. In addition, we work very closely with the Green Coalition and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) environmental companies.

Concrete eliminates air infiltration through the roof and wall, which allows for greater control of interior air quality. There are no drafts or cold spots, greatly reducing [fuel costs] for heating and cooling. The homes consume an estimated 30-40 percent less energy and wear less on the systems equipment.

Q: Do you have plans to build disaster-proof communities as opposed to individual homes? Could you foresee being able to create affordable and high-end, storm-proof communities? What would you need to do this – government subsidies?
A: Category Five Homes in specific is not looking for government subsidies, but we welcome joint ventures. Our goal is to build affordable safe havens that withstand the test of time and nature’s ferociousness. We also hope to help enhance state building codes throughout the United States and the Caribbean, blending Green Coalition fundamentals with 21st-century construction technology.

Headline, Interview

P!Nterview: What Katrina taught Loyola U

Loyola University New Orleans Provost Edward Kvet shares how better planning is protecting and propelling Loyola to the forefront of well armed colleges and universities in storm zones.

New Orleans is emerging from one of the most disastrous natural and man-made disasters in national history. Post-secondary institutions stand at the forefront of its transformation. Hurricane Katrina forced colleges and universities there to recognize the urgency of hurricane preparedness, and it showed the city how vital these institutions are to its health.

Loyola University New Orleans (Loyola) stands at the forefront of New Orleans’s metamorphosis. In 2009, the university was given an Award of Excellence by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)for its Crisis Communications Plan. That plan is just part of the story. A senior chemistry major and P!N Hurricane Relief Scholarship winner, Alex Girau, interviewed the university’s provost to glean some of the wisdom behind Loyola’s recovery.

Q. What was the most devastating impact Hurricane Katrina had on Loyola?

A. Loyola suffered very little structural damage and short-term financial damage, even though there were budget and program cuts. However, maybe the most significant damage was the personal losses suffered by our faculty and staff, over 60% of whom had total or significant loss of their homes.

Q. How did the hurricane impact enrollment?

A. Loyola’s freshman enrollment before Katrina was 900 students. Our current demand is higher than that. We attribute this to New Orleans’s new reputation as a city of unique opportunity and entrepreneurship- a sort of exciting “social experiment”.

Q. How did Katrina shape the university’s present Hurricane Emergency Plan?

A. Hurricane Katrina and other emergencies, such as the Virginia Tech shooting, forced Loyola to adopt a more robust action plan that accounted for several evacuation types (short, medium or long term). In 2006, Hurricane Gustav threatened the newly renovated levee system surrounding the city. This gave Loyola a chance to execute and evaluate our new plan. In the end, the levees held, and Loyola performed a successful evacuation with two weeks of successful distance learning through the Blackboard online classroom system.

Q. If you could wave a magic wand and have any wish granted regarding preparing Loyola to withstand severe storms– what would it be?

A. Regarding the Loyola community: I would wish that we be able to prepare for the various unexpected circumstances that invariably arise, and be able to successfully and safely meet the needs of our students, faculty, and staff. In terms of the City: post-secondary institutions like Loyola, UNO, Dillard, Tulane and Xavier account for the majority of the City’s employment…Katrina made the City realize the importance of its education sector. Indeed, we have been pivotal to the City’s recovery.

Q. What important lessons that you learned from this experience do you most want to share with other college and university campuses?

A. As advice for staff and administrators: institutions with a strong mission and sense of community will fair best in times of stress. Days after the university was closed due to Katrina, the first decision made by Loyola President, Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J., was to pay faculty and staff during the evacuation. We believe that the people and the community come first. What doesn’t break a community makes it stronger.

Headline, Interview

P!Nterview: A Lot to Say About a Quiet Season

The Weather Channel’s tropical storm expert, meteorologist, Steve Lyons, sums up this year’s storm season and shares his preparedness philosophy.

Q: Climatologists have referred to the 2009 storm season as less active than normal. Is this a fair characterization? What else can you say about this year’s tropical storms and hurricanes?

A: Yes, this was a quiet year, not only from the standpoint of the Atlantic Basin as a whole, but also for what people remember. Only two rather weak tropical storms impacted the United States (US) coastline, Claudette in August and Ida in November and neither did much damage. There were no US hurricanes, and the season as a whole was slow relative to seasonal outlooks and compared to recent, severely damaging hurricane season years like:




2009 A big break for the coastal US

Q: Has weather forecasting improved or changed in the past year?

A: There has not been a big improvement in forecasting this year. Track errors were a little lower, but mostly because the forecasts were easier this year. Over the past 15 years, we have seen great improvements in hurricane track forecasts. The big problem remains forecasting a hurricane’s intensity. There has been little improvement on that front for many years now. Research is being done to try to improve intensity forecasts, but due to the many scales of atmospheric motion involved, this is a tough problem, especially since we have a very poor sampling of weather over open oceans. Satellites have improved weather sampling over the oceans in the past 15 years, but we need more satellite information from the open ocean to get the intensity forecast to improve. Models cannot do this alone!

Q: What is your preparedness philosophy or how do you see your role in the storm preparedness movement?

A: I try to forecast the impacts from the hurricane and focus on them. Each hurricane leaves its own unique damage “footprint”, with five unique toes: wind damage, wave damage, rainfall damage, coastal flooding damage, and tornado damage. Improving these forecasts will save lives and help convince people to prepare and evacuate when they need to. If you leave it up to a resident to try to figure out what a 100 mph hurricane of large size moving at 20 mph towards them will do, most can only guess. They don’t need to do that if I give them the expected hurricane damage footprint, which requires models to do so!

Q: What advancements or technological innovations in storm forecasting are meteorologists most excited about?

A: Well, new models are continually developed, the “HWRF” or Hurricane Weather Research and Forecast model is one that continues to improve. Unfortunately, this year we lost the scatterometer satellite. That was a big blow to efforts to identify initial disturbances and the radii of winds around storms and hurricanes. The scatterometer satellite, which we called “QuickSCAT”, measured surface winds over the global oceans by emitting energy pulses and gathering their scattered signal from the ocean surface . It was a hugely successful satellite. Launched into space in 1999, QuikSCAT was expected to last two years. It finally died in late 2009, outlasting its lifetime by at least 7-8 years. Unfortunately, replacement satellites are not expected until around 2016 (hopefully sooner)! Until then, hurricane forecasters are left without this powerful tool, but will have cloud-drift wind estimates from more conventional satellite imagery, and of course Hurricane Hunter winds in very tiny areas in and around the hurricane.

Q: What are the major events that have occurred within the meteorological community this year?

Some private, and non-profit groups like FLASH (Federal Alliance for Safe Homes), continue to work on making the coastline more hurricane resistant. This is a huge problem now- a growing population in harm’s way. Insurance companies know that homebuilders can now make hurricane-wind proof homes, we just need to build more of them. Water damage is always a problem and homes and their contents are always vulnerable to it. Getting states, counties and cities to develop areas that are NOT likely to see huge losses in a hurricane remains a long-term goal!

Interview, Resources-BI

Life changed forever on August 29, 2005.
Now: A P!N Hurricane Relief Scholar and non-profit trailblazer at Tulane University

William Stoudt, a junior at Tulane University in New Orleans, is one member of P!N’s inaugural Hurricane Relief Scholarship Award class. His award is helping him complete his undergraduate degree. William’s work as a volunteer for the student-led Youth Rebuilding New Orleans (YRNO), and his academic pursuits as a Political Science major who follows national and local politics closely- make him an excellent advocate for severe storm preparedness and relief. P!N contacted William recently to get an update on his work in New Orleans.

Q: What are you working on now at YRNO? When we spoke in September, the City of New Orleans had just granted you the deeds to 4 homes YRNO planned to donate to public school teachers.

A: Yes, we have two of the four houses under contract; we haven’t closed on them. We’re also building up the organization by creating a new website, and starting the application process for potential homeowners. We’re also adding to the YRNO youth chapters and recently added two. One of those chapters is part of a new service learning project. So, instead of YRNO being an after-school activity as it is in all other schools, our rebuilding and education work is built into the curriculum.

We’ve begun a youth council whose representatives convene and plan how to execute YRNO projects. One of the decisions to come out of these meetings has been to use green building technology for our rebuilding projects. We’ve partnered with EnergyStart to do this. Finally, we’re building a community garden in the Algiers neighborhood, on the West Bank of New Orleans.

Q: President Obama recently visited New Orleans. How do you feel about the local and federal reforms in the rebuilding effort?

A: The President’s visit was most important as a tool to raise awareness because it drew attention back to New Orleans and the issues of storm relief and preparedness. (Although the visit was slightly overshadowed by the balloon-boy incident, unfortunately).

At the local level, there is a lot of hope in educational reform. I would call this the silver lining of Katrina. Our city educational system is being completely overhauled. Charter schools are sprouting everywhere, and people are experimenting with educational models. There are still years of work ahead of us, but this system is the Phoenix emerging from the ashes of New Orleans. Our President here at Tulane has been very active in the reforms.

We hope education reform will come with crime reform. The fact that we lost 100k in our city’s population led to predictions of lower crime rates, but that hasn’t been the case. Murder per capita is still one of the highest in the country.

Q: You’re in the middle of your junior year. Are your career goals changing as you near graduation?

A: No changes. The closer I get to graduating, the more nerve-wracking the decision becomes. I’m choosing between law school, public policy work, and an MBA. I’ll probably work in the corporate sector after graduation, then run for office in New Orleans. My goal is to one day become the city’s Mayor.

Headline, Interview

The University of North Carolina Center for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters (UNC Hazards Center) is geering up for the Fifth International Symposium on Computational Wind Engineering (CWE2010) in Chapel Hill, NC May 23-27, 2010.

This year’s symposium is a collaboration amongst: the International Association for Wind Engineering (IAWE), the American Association for Wind Engineering (AAWE), the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), the University of North Carolina Institute for the Environment (IE), and the Hazards Center.

The 2010 theme is: applications for Homeland and Societal Security. This includes natural and human-caused hazards and disasters.

How To, Interview

The Atakapa-Ishak people are a Native American tribe settled in the Grand Bayou region of Louisiana. The tribe’s core values are tradition and family, which helped them avoid the terrible toll of Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. Living in the isolated Plaquemines Parish, tribe member Rosina Phillippe believes her people have been able to survive in a hurricane-prone area because of their adherence to putting life first; practicing safe harbor mooring; and allowing marshes to buffer the effects of a storm surge.

”We are a part of the coastal community. We know how to live there, how to survive there,” says Rosina. “We are an integral part of the environment, and we remain there to this day.”

The Ishaks are mindful that preserving life is a priority and that material possessions, unlike people, can be replaced. When they were warned that Hurricane Katrina would make landfall, they worked together to organize the village and ensure everyone’s safety. “It is a misconception that our people do not evacuate when hurricanes come on land,” says Rosina. “We work as a community to pack up and move to our boats.”

When a severe storm approaches their village, the Ishak people go from home to home to ensure that every member of their community moves to the harbor and boards the fishing boats. As part of their strategy, they secure their boats in the center of the narrow canal with several lines tied to trees and pilings on shore (called cross-tying) to ensure a safe mooring. Rosina and her people survived Hurricane Katrina by riding out the storm in their boats.

The structures in their village, however, did not survive the storm. Three years after the hurricane, Rosina says that not one building has been rebuilt. “This has to do with the Ishak community being considered ‘at risk.’”

Any community built outside of the levees is considered to be an at-risk community. As part of the Road Home program, managed by ICF International, communities at risk have to undergo an extensive building review, which includes height and architectural mandates and floor board inspections. The Road Home program gave this classification to the Ishak village despite their demonstrated ability to protect themselves against severe storms throughout history. The Ishak community has never suffered a casualty from a hurricane-related event.

Without federally mandated policies, the Ishak people wouldn’t be eligible for any federal funds to help rebuild their community. “There is still so much left to be done,” says Rosina. “The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is focused on other regions of the Gulf Coast, while here work remains unfinished.”

Rosina is concerned that the post-Katrina rebuilding process is a repeat of past mistakes. The Louisiana authorities continue to create deeper levees and cut more canals, while marsh land, the best defense against severe storms and residual flooding, remains underutilized and unprotected.

Rosina also feels her people are a marginalized community and that it is important to consider how a culture lives and works before the government sends out blanket mandates. “It is important to work with the community and the people before deciding which communities are beyond repair,” she says. “Our culture values life over property. Our traditions have been working for hundreds of years.”

"Surviving Disaster deconstructs how the brain responds to life-or-death events—so that we can all learn to do better. The documentary includes many characters from my book, in addition to other survivors of all kinds of trauma, from tsunami to car crashes. One young survivor describes in unflinching detail exactly what it felt like to get out of a house fire as a little girl in Texas. It is the kind of story you will never forget once you see it, and it is told with a purpose—to help the rest of us become smarter and stronger in our own homes and communities." - Amanda Ripley, author of THE UNTHINKABLE, Who Survives When Disaster Strikes.

It's been just over five years since this revolutionary book was first published and we urge you to celebrate by buying a copy of THE UNTHINKABLE. It's essential mantra is ours : practice makes perfect where preparedness is concerned. Go to to purchase the companion documentary that will change your life and perspective about emergency preparedness, based on the book by the insightfully, plain-spoken Amanda Ripley. Click here and buy it on AMAZON!


You may already know that our Owlie Skywarn is a severe weather prep hero! Now, THE YMP WEATHERFEST RALLIES are being held in cities all over the country, in cooperation with The National Weather Service, to help prepare the nation's kids as well as their parents and teachers for flash floods, climate change, storms and tornadoes, and more.

These events include appearances by OWLIE SKYWARN, the mascot and lots of participation by community first responders and other stakeholders! Go to for more information. And GO TO to PLAY THE GAME!


You can help protect low-income and disadvantaged families in Mexico and the U.S.!

PLAN!T NOW, in collaboration with Estes Mexico and other corporate partners, is working to provide life-saving weather survival kits--including water, storage-ready food, flashlights, batteries, first-aid kits and other critical supplies--and emergency family plans for residents in two severe-weather vulnerable towns in Mexico and the U.S.

Your tax-deductible donation today helps save lives tomorrow--give now.

For more information and the metric for this project, click here.