Insurance-Funded Group Probing Hurricane Ike Damage for Mitigation Data

September 12, 2008, from the Institute for Business & Home Safety

As Hurricane Ike is about to make landfall in Texas, the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is engaged with several partners to conduct research that will help define the severity of the winds and wind-related damage throughout the area being impacted by Ike. IBHS, along with FEMA and Riker Consulting, are helping fund deployment efforts involving five universities from three states. The goal is to gather critical data that will improve risk modeling accuracy and enable reproduction of realistic storm conditions at the IBHS' Insurance Center for Building Safety Research.

A total of seven 10-meter towers and 30 2.5 meter "stick" anemometers will be set up. The research has three primary goals: to better understand the transition of the winds as Ike makes landfall; to gauge intensity of the storm to support damage versus wind speed correlations; and, to collect - for the first time - information on wind-driven rain, including drop sizes, in a major hurricane. The wind transition and wind intensity information are important to risk modeling accuracy, while wind-driven rain information will be used to recreate wind-driven rain conditions in controlled laboratory settings.

IBHS Chief Engineer Dr. Tim Reinhold is leading IBHS involvement in the research effort, which is being carried out in cooperation with the University of Florida, Texas Tech University, Clemson University, Louisiana State University, and Florida International University. IBHS researcher Tanya Brown is among the Texas Tech students and faculty that will be setting up the equipment. The number of hurricanes making landfall this year has strained university resources, which is why IBHS and other partners are stepping up to fund much of the hard cost of this deployment.

Most of the data collection towers belong to the University of Florida, and are equipped to transmit data to an Internet site, where it can be tracked in real time. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and risk modelers from Applied Research have access to this data. IBHS members also can monitor transmissions at http://fcmp.ce.ufl.edu/. If prompted, the user name and password are both "fcmp."

After the storm, researchers will conduct a rapid assessment of damage in the areas around the measurement sites, and will exercise the IBHS Post Disaster Investigation data collection program. Depending on the severity of the storm at landfall and the amount of damage observed, IBHS may follow up with a formal damage assessment research project in the next couple of weeks. A preliminary report containing information from the rapid assessment survey will be available a few days after the deployment. If significant damage does occur, our more in-depth study would be similar to the research conducted in the wake of Hurricane Charley in 2004.