Experts Available as 2009 Hurricane Season Begins

Wind Scientists Have Studied Katrina, Rita, Ike and Other Hurricanes

The United States is preparing for what predictions say will be an average hurricane season. With June 1 serving as the official start of the season, some 35 million residents along the coastal United States take the predictions seriously and use the numbers to help them understand what to expect from the potentially dangerous weather. Texas Tech University has a number of wind scientists with extensive experience researching hurricanes such as Rita, Katrina and Ike and can speak as experts about various aspects of these devastating storms. Through Texas Tech's multi-disciplinary Wind Science and Engineering Research Center, the scientists study various aspects of a hurricane, such as: the meteorological forces at work as the hurricane makes landfall, wind damage to buildings such as houses and "lifeline" infrastructure, and the economic impact that evacuations have on cities, banks and stock prices. Daan Liang, assistant professor of construction engineering technology, investigated building damages caused by Hurricane Katrina using satellite images and aerial photos along with ground survey results. Liang has studied how the construction of buildings affects their vulnerability against severe windstorms with various probability models. Recently, his research is focused on the advancement of remote sensing technology in documenting and assessing wind damages to residential structures. Liang can be reached at (806) 742-3538 or daan.liang@ttu.edu. Bradley Ewing, professor of operations management in the Rawls College of Business, has studied the economic impact of hurricanes and tornadoes for more than 12 years. He can speak to the impact of hurricanes and tornadoes in cities such as Oklahoma City, Corpus Christi, Wilmington, N.C., Miami, and Nashville, Tenn. Ewing can be reached at (806) 742-3939 or bradley.ewing@ttu.edu. John L. Schroeder, associate professor of atmospheric science, visited affected areas after both hurricanes Rita and Katrina to deploy instrumented towers that gather high-resolution storm data at a time when most conventional observation systems fail. Schroeder can offer insight into how hurricanes develop, move and react to various meteorological elements. He is an expert on how the hurricane interacts with man's built environment at landfall and has been actively intercepting hurricanes since 1998. Schroeder can be reached at (806) 742-2813 or john.schroeder@ttu.edu. Ernst Kiesling, professor of civil engineering and executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association, recommends that homeowners who live above the flood plane in hurricane-prone areas buy a storm shelter for their home. They might also encourage local governmental agencies and school administrations to include community storm shelters in facilities planning. As was seen in Houston preceding Hurricane Rita, evacuations often can put immense strain on traffic corridors, leading to traffic jams and - in the case of Houston - fatalities. By utilizing in-home shelters, some families who are not required to evacuate can remain where they are and ease the traffic flow. However, Kiesling urges buyers to look for a seal of the National Storm Shelter Association when they buy a safe room for their home. Although there are a variety of products available for homes, Kiesling says that not all shelters are verified to be fully compliant with current standards for storm shelters and to provide full protection from extreme winds. Kiesling can speak on the construction and use of residential and community shelters. Kiesling has more than 30 years of experience in the design, standards-writing and quality control of storm shelters. He can be reached at (806) 742-3476, ext. 335 or ernst.kiesling@ttu.edu. Larry Tanner, research associate in Wind Science & Engineering has just completed an investigation and six-month study working with the FEMA mitigation assessment team on the wind damage to residential structures from Hurricane Ike in Texas and Louisiana.  He was also a member of the FEMA mitigation assessment team that studied Hurricane Katrina. He led a team that recorded wind and water damage along the coastline in Louisiana and Mississippi. Much of the damage done by Katrina, he says, resulted from structures being built below the base flood elevation - or the elevation that flood waters will rise to during a 100-year storm event (meaning the storm only has a 1 percent chance of happening in a year). Regarding Ike, he reported that even though Ike's winds were less than code design speeds, extensive damage was inflicted on building wall cladding and roofing materials and that thousands of homes were washed away by Ike's tidal surge. Tanner can be reached at (806) 742-3476 ext. 336, or larry.tanner@ttu.edu.