Update: Late Thursday morning, Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm, but it’s expected to go back to a hurricane again Thursday evening before making landfall near Charleston, South Carolina on Friday.
As of 3:58 p.m. Thursday, Ian became a hurricane again, aiming at the Carolinas and Georgia.
LUBBOCK, Texas — After doing significant damage and knocking out power country-wide in Western Cuba, Hurricane Ian took a turn, pummeling the gulf coast.
The category 4 storm is expected to be one of the most powerful storms the country has ever seen, with the potential to level up to a category 5.
“It will be a historic event for Florida and the country as a whole,” said Dr. Brian Hirth, research professor at the Texas Tech University (TTU) National Wind Institute.
TTU’s Hurricane Research Team (TTUHRT) is usually deployed into storms like Ian. Over the past 24 years, TTUHRT has traveled to over 30 hurricanes and tropical storms.
When the team deploys, it sets up portable weather stations called “StickNets” along the coastline to measure wind speed and other high-resolution meteorological data.
“There are not a lot of wind measurements that exist, and those that do oftentimes fail when the power system fails,” Hirth said. “So, we come in with research-grade instrumentation to populate the landfall region, so that there’s information about the wind across the entire landfall area that can be used to better understand the storm.”
The TTHRT makes a call three days ahead of landfall on whether to travel to storms. On Sunday, the forecast showed the storm would be farther north and fairly weak, so the team decided against going to Ian.
“Of course, things evolved, and the track shifted further east, and the storm became much more significant,” Hirth said. “We’re sitting this one out, but we wish we were there to contribute to the effort of learning about this storm because this will be a historic event in Florida.”
Hirth said even from 1,500 miles away, his team plans to track the storm and use it as a learning opportunity for future deployments.
“Learn from the impacts this storm makes to make better deployments and better understand where to deploy, where not to deploy, how to stay away from the hazards that come with storms of this intensity,” Hirth said.
As meteorologists have predicted, Hirth expects Ian to cause catastrophic damage to the area.
“Mobile homes will be severely damaged or destroyed, well-built homes you would expect to see some roof covering, roof decking loss,” Hirth said. “I expect that in areas along the coast, we’ll see places that are wiped pretty clean in certain spots, depending on how the storm moves onshore.”