TCNJ Magazine Fall 2023

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34 The College of New Jersey Magazine Michael Horst jokes that his eventual career choice came down to what he describes as his youthful laziness. "I thought I'd love to have a job where I could go fishing on my lunch break," he says. Turns out his work does bring him in regular contact with rivers, with or without his fishing gear. A professor of civil engineering, Horst is focused on trying to gauge the impact of rain- fall runoff, particularly in powerful storms that cause severe flooding. He calls the discipline "extreme rain event modeling." And with climate change causing more intense rain events — in New Jersey, Hurricane Ida in 2021 was a deadly example — his work is as timely as it is topical. "More rainfall means more water in the river, and more water in the river means more flooding," he says. Traditional flood zone maps, used to dictate which property owners are required to purchase flood insurance, Horst says, no longer apply. "We're seeing the intensity of the rainfall has really been starting to increase," he says. "Before, if we saw three inches of rain in one hour, that's a lot of rain, and we'd expect that to happen once every 100 years. Now we might see that kind of intensity once every 20 years." Horst has been researching severe rain events in New Jersey, and he's now expanding that research across the Northeast. Using data collected from Hurricane Ida, he's aiming to develop a forecasting model that could help municipalities respond to heavy rainfall in real time. "In essence," Horst says, "we're making predictions on what the stream is going to look like in two hours or two days." His research, rooted in determining a river's flow rate — measured in cubic feet per second — can also help engi- neers and land-use planners decide how high to build new bridges and other hydraulic structures. "It's the kind of thing that most people don't think about," Horst says. "But somebody has to." Michael Horst in Manville, New Jersey " More rainfall means more water in the river, and more water in the river means more flooding." Michael Horst, professor of civil engineering The height watchman

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