Public Release: 

Engineers head into path of Hurricane Isabel

Clemson University

CLEMSON -- Engineers from Clemson University and the University of Florida are scrambling to deploy four mobile data-acquisition platforms squarely in the path of oncoming Hurricane Isabel. They will converge in the Wilmington, N.C., area Tuesday night and then reposition along Isabel's likely path.

The "wind towers" will provide an accurate ground-level picture of the wind speed and direction. Clemson researchers will use data to help improve building codes for coastal areas. In some cases, their findings could actually reduce building costs. Research leader on the projects is Tim Reinhold, a nationally known wind engineer who is a professor of civil engineering at Clemson.

"This gives us one of our first chances to get the high-resolution wind-speed data - near the ground, close to where a storm passes - that we need in order to develop design bases for hurricane-resistant homes," said Reinhold.

Typical airport anemometers simply aren't designed to collect this type of information. Hurricane-hunting aircraft, meanwhile, only measure wind speed at considerable altitude and usually do not make measurements over land.

Each steel-reinforced platform, which weighs up to 4,500 pounds, is specifically designed to withstand hurricane-force winds and features special securing legs. The platforms can be fully extended and secured in place in as little as 20 minutes. The platforms feature three anemometers specifically designed to operate in high-wind storms. The devices will measure wind speed at heights of 33 feet, a standard reference height, and 15 feet, the height of a typical single-story home. That information will then be relayed along steel-reinforced cables to an onboard computer housed in a reinforced box

The teams also have permanent instrumentation capability on approximately 35 houses in Florida and South Carolina. The houses, which have different retrofits, have all been pre-wired and can be outfitted with the monitoring equipment in the event of a predicted hurricane.

Clemson's Wind Load Test Facility is one of the nation's top laboratories for testing the effects of wind on low-rise structures such as homes and schools.

Clemson's research has resulted in some of the most accurate wind tunnel modeling techniques currently available. This work led to development of criteria for wind-tunnel testing sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.


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