LUBBOCK, TX - After a short break back home from recording data on Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Tech Hurricane Research Team is back on the road, this time heading for Florida to gather research on Hurricane Irma.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma, a category five hurricane, is now the most powerful Atlantic storm outside of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico in recorded history. On Wednesday morning, the storm touched down on several islands in the eastern Caribbean, and could make U.S. landfall on Sunday.
The TTU group of researchers uses special type of portable tools, called "Stick Nets" which are used to measure wind, temperature and pressure as hurricanes near the shore. They were used during Harvey and were able to record wind speeds of more than 100 miles per hour, the highest ever measured by a Stick Net probe. Wind speeds for Irma however, have already been recorded at 185 miles per hour.
“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," said Brian Hirth, a research professor with TTU, the National Wind Institute. "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.”
Hurricane Irma could be making U.S. landfall on Sunday in Florida, where preparations have already begun.
"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," said Hirth, who explained that it's not out of the ordinary for Harvey and Irma to be hitting back to back as September is the peak of Hurricane season.
"This year is definitely above active in the fact that we have two major hurricanes, back to back, and by major I mean Category 3 or higher. And the fact that Irma is now a category five, a significant category five hurricane, the back to back intensity of both is rather unique."
Since the late 1990's, the TTU Hurricane Research Team has been deploying instruments in the path of tropical storms and hurricanes, having collected data from more than two dozens storms since.
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