Hurricane Ian Offered Powerful Opportunities for Data Gathering

Hurricanes are frightening events, to be sure, but amid the gales and rain, these powerful storms can provide valuable data to those who seek it.

Hurricane Ian brought out multiple seekers from Florida Tech.

With support from a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) grant, engineering and meteorology teams deployed dozens of pressure and temperature sensors and multiple pieces of equipment at a Satellite Beach neighborhood as Ian approached.

The engineering team consisted of faculty members Jean-Pinelli Pinelli and Chelakara Subramanian and students Soundarya Sridhar, Jian Zhang, Ali Lebbar, Tuquet Corentin and Celton Alexandre.

The meteorology team featured faculty member Steven Lazarus and students Hadley Besing, Marcus Cote and Connor Welch.

The teams deployed 17 sensors on the roof of a home, six on the garage door and two each on windows and the porch. They used three anemometers – devices that record wind speed – with one reaching nearly 20 feet up.

They also utilized a LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, device, which measures wind profiles as high as 1,000 feet using a laser beam. The LiDAR research is essential to developing a better understanding of how the wind interacts with the built environment.

Subramanian noted some of the learning experiences students had from the field work included experimental planning and preparation, remote sensing and data monitoring, effect of surface roughness and wind direction on near-surface wind profiles and the correlation between hurricane wind aloft and local wind on the structures.

The teams are just starting to process much of the data, but they reported that a 64-mph gust was recorded at a height of 36 feet just before midnight on Sept. 29.

This work with Ian is part of a three-year, NIST-funded effort to develop and use a unique wireless sensor network system together with state-of-the-art anemometry, including LiDAR, to characterize the impact of the surrounding terrain on the wind profile near the ground and subsequent wind loads on non-structural components of buildings such as roods, soffits, windows and doors.

“It is critical to understand the interaction between the building, its environment and the incoming wind to come up with better more resistant designs,” Pinelli said. “The architectural details can be the weak link in the load chain. Their failure can trigger cascading effects that lead to the demise of the building.”

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