Texas Tech University

On 10th Anniversary of Katrina, Hurricane Research Team on Standby for Erika

Karin Slyker

August 28, 2015

Researchers recall anniversary of deployment and changes made.

Richard Krupar III
Richard Krupar III

Tropical Storm Erika is making waves as it heads toward the Florida coast. Forecasters predict the relatively “disorganized storm” to make landfall Monday, possibly as a Category 1 hurricane. It was ten years ago today (Aug. 28) that Katrina became a Category 5 hurricane.

The Texas Tech University Hurricane Research Team (TTUHRT) is dedicated to mitigating the effects of landfalling hurricanes on life and property.  TTUHRT deployed a team of researchers to intercept Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Today another team is on standby, ready to travel to the region targeted by Erika. Upon arrival, the team would deploy 12 StickNet probes to gather storm data and provide status updates and pictures on Facebook and Twitter as time allows.

James Duncan

The group will be led by Richard Krupar, who recently earned his doctorate through Texas Tech's National Wind Institute (NWI). Krupar is accompanied by doctoral student James Duncan.

“The location may change over the course of a day or two,” Krupar said. “So we will have to pay close attention to model trends and satellite observations as they come in.”

The group also may be joined by Texas Tech alumnus Ian Giammanco, now an NWI adjunct research associate and research scientist at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety in South Carolina. Giammanco was field coordinator for the TTUHRT deployed to intercept Hurricane Katrina. For the Louisiana native, the experience quickly became personal as Katrina made landfall.

Ian Giammanco
Related story:
Ian Giammanco brings hailstorm chasing to West Texas.

“In addition to coordinating our research efforts, I was also trying to make sure my family was alright,” Giamannco said. “The day before landfall, my aunt asked me if they'd have a house to come back to, and at the time my answer was ‘I don't think so.' But the storm's slight shift eastward made the difference.”

Since then, TTUHRT made improvements to its research technology. The StickNets replaced the WEMITE tower used to collect data during Katrina.

“The technology upgrade was contemplated previously, but Katrina underscored why it was necessary,” said John Schroeder, professor of atmospheric sciences and TTUHRT principal investigator. “We just needed more observations.”


Hurricane Katrina Image Gallery


NWI also has a number of additional researchers with extensive experience studying hurricanes such as Rita, Katrina and Ike, and can speak as experts about various aspects of these devastating storms.

John Schroeder, professor of atmospheric sciences, 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 hurricane winds and has been actively intercepting hurricanes since 1998.
Schroeder can be reached at (806) 834-5678 or john.schroeder@ttu.edu.

Daan Liang, assistant professor of construction engineering technology and interim director of NWI, used satellite images and aerial photos along with ground survey results to investigate building damage caused by Katrina. Liang used various probability models to study how the construction of buildings affects their vulnerability against severe windstorms. Recently, his research is focused on the advancement of remote sensing technology in documenting and assessing wind damage to residential structures.
Liang can be reached at (806) 834-0383 or daan.liang@ttu.edu.

Ernst Kiesling, research professor at NWI and executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association (NSSA), recommends homeowners who live above the flood plain in hurricane-prone areas buy a storm shelter for their home. As was seen in Houston preceding Rita, evacuations are stressful and expensive. They often put immense strain on traffic corridors, leading to traffic jams and – in the case of Houston – fatalities. By using 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 an NSSA seal when they buy a safe room for their home, because not all shelters are verified to be fully compliant with current standards for storm shelters and provide full protection from extreme winds. Kiesling has more than 35 years of experience in the design, standards-writing and quality control of storm shelters.
Kiesling can be reached at (806) 834-1931 or ernst.kiesling@ttu.edu.

Larry Tanner, research associate in civil engineering, completed a six-month investigation working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency mitigation assessment team on the wind damage to residential structures from Hurricane Ike in Texas and Louisiana. He also was 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 said, resulted from structures being built below the base flood elevation, or the elevation flood waters will rise during a 100-year storm event (meaning the storm only has a 1 percent chance of happening in a year).
Tanner can be reached at (806) 834-2320 or larry.tanner@ttu.edu.

Bradley Ewing, professor of operations management in the Rawls College of Business, has studied the economic impact of hurricanes and tornadoes. He can speak to the impact of hurricanes and tornadoes in cities like Oklahoma City; Corpus Christi; Wilmington, North Carolina; Miami, Florida; and Nashville, Tennessee.
Ewing can be reached at (806) 834-3939 or bradley.ewing@ttu.edu

TTUHRT Remembers Katrina Facebook and Twitter.