Hurricane Matthew killed several people and destroyed infrastructure as it struck the Western portion of Haiti on Tuesday. Matthew is expected to hit Cuba and the Bahamas as well.
Many scientists have been closely watching the storm. Brian Hirth, a Research Professor with the National Wind Institute at Texas Tech, called EverythingLubbock.com while on the road to the East Coast Tuesday. As a scientist who has studied plenty of severe weather incidents, Hirth explained that Matthew is a unique storm.
“The storm has maintained category four to five intensity over several days, so it’s not very typical that storms in the Atlantic basin to maintain that kind of strength for so long,” Hirth said.
Hirth is headed with another colleague from Texas Tech to study Matthew when it makes landfall in the continental U.S. They are hoping to track wind speeds and storm damage from this late season, high power storm.
“What’s interesting about Matthew is how far south it developed, it developed south near the Columbia Venezuela border– near that area–and it has more or less moved due north through the Caribbean through Haiti, Cuba and will continue more or less northward through the east coast of the united states,”
Hirth left for the East Coast on Monday, they are hoping to reach Jacksonville by the end of the day Tuesday. He explained that if Matthew makes landfall Thursday, they will likely head toward the Florida Peninsula, but if Matthew hits the U.S. over the weekend, his team will head to the Carolinas.
They are traveling with a trailer carrying fourteen stick net platforms ( tools which help them to track storm data). They plan to set up the stick nets, then retrieve them after the storm has passed through. By doing that, they hope to have accurate information about wind speed in different parts of the storm and how those winds correlate to storm damage.
‘We can go back into the wind record in a lot more detail after the fact and really be able to relate specific locations, maybe where some things where an area of damage was more concentrated,” Hirth said.
They expect to be back in Lubbock by the middle of next week.
Texas Tech has been doing this kind of research for decades following severe weather across the country.
“[Previously]The Wind Science and Engineering Center, now the National Wind Institute has been studying hurricanes with people deployed to the hurricane region for decades,” Hirth explained. “The team that is out in the field now has been deployed in landfall and hurricanes since the mid 2000’s, so we have a lot of experience in this and we enjoy doing it and really enjoy trying to learn from these storms. We don’t wish them to make landfall, but it’s going to happen, and we want to be there to be able to learn about them and better understand their impacts, both why they form and their structure and their impact on society as well.”