Hurricane experts proposing high-tech seawall along coast

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by MARIO GOMEZ

KHOU-TV

Posted on September 6, 2010 at 5:56 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 7 at 5:46 PM

PEARLAND, Texas – Local hurricane experts are attempting to reinvent high-tech seawalls that could eventually protect an entire coastline.

At a family business in Pearland, Nina Konrad and her clan have spent more than thirty years making custom shutters.

"The shutters make me feel safe when we have tropical storms and hurricanes," said Konrad.

What the family assembles at Rollac Shutters is designed to protect homes. But what if wasa giant shutter large enough to protect an entire coastline?

That’s the idea being proposed by some local hurricane experts.

The concept continues to be tested by an engineering professor at the University of Houston.

"The shutter is buried in the ground and when there is a storm surge we can elevate it to whatever height you want and protect the storm surge from getting onto land," said Dr. C. Vipulanandan.

On a clear day, it could be lowered into the ground to allow ships to navigate freely. If a storm approaches, though, the height of the wall could be adjusted from a few feet to as high as 30 feet depending on the surge forecast.

"I’m really excited about this technology," said Dr. Vipulanandan.

The project would be expensive, however. Just a hundred feet of shutters, made of rust-resistant polymer wrapped steel and reinforced concrete materials, would cost an estimated $10 to $20 million.

The price, though, does not sound like too much compared to the billions of dollars in damages Hurricane Ike caused.

For now, Nina Konrads counting on the shutters she just installed around her house.

"Even our neighbors have told us, ‘I think we are going to your house if we have another hurricane,’" she said.

Someday, though, giant shutters on the shoreline could protect everyone.

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