Texas Tech Wind Researchers Are On Their Way to Intercept Irma

The Category 5 Hurricane Irma, now the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic with estimated 185 mph winds, is expected to make landfall in Florida as early as Sunday.

Just 10 days after returning from the Texas coast where they rode out Hurricane Harvey’s landfall, The Texas Tech University Hurricane Research Team from the National Wind Institute (NWI) is back on the road – this time headed to Florida to intercept Hurricane Irma.

Brian Hirth

Brian Hirth

Some of the team’s instrument platforms, called StickNets, were damaged in the intense winds of Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane. According to research professor Brian Hirth, the 100-plus-mile-per-hour winds were the strongest ever measured by a StickNet platform since the StickNet program began a decade ago.

Now, after being repaired as quickly as possible, the StickNets may have even more intense winds to deal with. The Category 5 Hurricane Irma, now the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic with estimated 185 mph winds, is expected to make landfall in Florida as early as Sunday.

Expert

Brian Hirth, research professor for the NWI,

Talking points

  • September is the peak month for hurricane season, so seeing this number of storms is not unusual.
  • The strength of these storms is what makes this hurricane season extraordinary.
  • Harvey’s winds had the potential for much greater damage in a more-populated area.
  • Irma’s expected landfall in Florida could pose a much greater threat for extensive damage, but Florida is also one of the best-prepared states for hurricanes.

Quotes

  • “It’s been several years to maybe even a decade since we’ve seen the activity that has threatened the U.S. in a hurricane season as we have now seen this season. The fact that Harvey made landfall and now Irma is on its heels is not necessarily unusual, especially as we head into September, which is the peak month of the hurricane season. Many seasons in the past we’ve seen similar situations – 2005 comes to mind when we had Katrina, Rita, Wilma, a string of storms, one after the other.”
  • “This year is definitely above active, and the fact that we’ve had two major hurricanes back-to-back, and by major, I mean Category 3 or higher, and the fact that Irma is now a Category 5, a significant Category 5 hurricane, I think the back-to-back intensity of both is rather unique.”
  • “Harvey brought with it some of the strongest winds that the Texas coastline has ever seen in a land-falling hurricane in recorded history. The wind damage associated with Harvey was some of the worst that Texas had ever seen, and while the flooding that occurred in Houston is going to cause the most damage by dollars or people impacted from the storm, the wind damage could have been substantially worse if Harvey would’ve made landfall in a major metropolitan area.”
  • “There aren’t a lot of structures anywhere that are built for that type of wind. The building codes are probably the most strict in the state of Florida, so if there’s any state that’s ready for a significant hurricane, Florida is a state that is most ready. But that type of wind is going to cause substantial damage no matter where.”

StickNets


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National Wind Institute

 

National Wind Institute (NWI) is world-renowned for conducting innovative research in the areas of wind energy, wind hazard mitigation, wind-induced damage, severe storms and wind-related economics.

NWI is also home to world-class researchers with expertise in numerous academic fields such as atmospheric science, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, mathematics and economics, and NWI was the first in the nation to offer a doctorate in Wind Science and Engineering, and a Bachelor of Science in Wind Energy.


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