Social scientists from Howard University are evaluating the psychological impact of Hurricane Sandy on victims

Hurricane Sandy and its destruction have largely moved out of the media headlines, replaced by more recent news events. But for New York and New Jersey residents still dealing with devastation in its wake, it remains fresh.

It is fresh, too, for the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS) at Howard University, where faculty and students are assisting with research. NCAS is exploring the sociological impacts of the storm on residents, how people responded and why they reacted the way they did, as part of its research on how weather and climate impact society.

NCAS recently surveyed some of the communities in the New Jersey and New York areas that were affected by the October storm, which flooded New York’s subway system, destroyed more than 100 homes, left 53 people dead and caused $18 billion in damages, lost wages and income.

Terri Adams, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, said the team of natural and social scientists from Howard are examining the storm on a number of levels.

“When a disaster happens, there are multiple layers of devastation that can impact an individual or a community,” Adams said. “A focus of the research is to examine how people respond to or take calls to action before a disaster. Then we examine how people respond to the disaster after it has happened.”

The research is a collaborative effort being conducted by scholars in both the social and natural sciences. Adams will lead the social science research alongside Carolyn Stroman, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Communications and Culture; Tia Tyree, Ph.D., associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Journalism; and Cynthia Winston, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychology.

Everette Joseph, Ph.D., the NCAS deputy director, Beltsville Center for Climate and Systems Observations and professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, will lead the natural science research. They are working in conjunction with Vernon Morris, Ph.D., director of NCAS and professor in the Department of Chemistry, and Bill Stockwell, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry.