RESEARCHERS TO STUDY KATRINA’S IMPACT

Written by Cory Chandler

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: August 29, 2005
CONTACT: Cory Chandler, cory.chandler@ttu.edu

LUBBOCK – Texas Tech University researchers are already in the field gathering wind data from Hurricane Katrina that could lead to stronger storm shelters and more accurate prediction models. Now, Texas Tech’s Wind Science and Engineering Research Center is preparing to send another team to begin damage assessment in the storm’s wake.

This is the first time the center has been poised to gather this much data from a hurricane of Katrina’s magnitude, said Dr. Ernst Kiesling, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering.

The first team departed Lubbock Aug. 26 with two Wind Engineering Mobile Instrumented Tower Experiment towers. These towers were developed by the center as an easily-deployed system of meteorological instrumentation that can be placed in front of a landfalling hurricane. They gather high resolution data on the hurricane’s winds, temperature, pressure, humidity and rainfall.

For the next phase of their research, scientists will turn to new high-resolution satellite imagery to study the damage. This will help give an eagle-eye view of the scene. Texas Tech, working with disaster-remote-sensing specialist ImageCat Inc., used this technology last year to study the damage created when hurricanes Charlie and Ivan ravaged parts of Florida.

Using images recorded by the satellites Quickbird and IKONOS, Arn Womble, a structural engineer and doctoral candidate working with the center, and others got high-resolution views of damage left in the path of these storms. The satellite images assisted the teams in performing field reconnaissance studies of the hurricane damage. This ability will compliment other research under way through the center.

Field reconnaissance is often impeded by clean-up efforts that shift or remove debris before they can be properly scrutinized. However, photographs snapped by satellites can help preserve this “perishable” damage data and provide an invaluable tool that could significantly advance hurricane research, said Womble.

The findings are used to help the center develop structures capable of withstanding hurricane-force gales. The center has performed dozens of product tests for an international slate of manufacturers and organizations like the Portland Cement Association, The Engineered Wood Association, and Waco Composites.
It will also help improve damage forecasting preceding a hurricane.

Note: We can provide direct contact with researchers in the field, though cell phone service is intermittent.

CONTACT: Ernst Kiesling, professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-3451, ext. 235, or ernst.kiesling@ttu.edu.