Meanwhile, a team of
"We're heading toward it right now," OU meteorology professor Mike Biggerstaf said Wednesday while traveling between
Flooding most interests the SMART radar team because that is the most deadly aspect of hurricanes that strike the
"Inland flooding leads to the largest loss of life in
Hurricanes have three distinct features to meteorologists: the eye, or center; the eyewall, where the strongest winds are recorded; and rain bands that form around the eyewall. The bands stretch out inland, unleashing several inches of water in a matter of hours that cause flash flooding in communities that are nowhere near the coast.
Along with the radar, Biggerstaff said he was driving a truck with four integrated precipitation sensors that measure not only the amount of rainfall and rate but the size of raindrops. Combined with the data on wind speed and eyewall location, the team hopes to better understand how rain bands form and where to help better forecast a hurricane's impact.
"Twenty years from now, we need to be a lot better at telling people in which areas there will be flooding," he said. "These are critical areas with this storm."
The team of Biggerstaff, doctoral student
He said the group traveled to
The SMART radar team was formed in 2001. It was first deployed on a NASA project in the
The radar is located in a truck, where the team stays throughout the storm. Biggerstaff said they try to set up in an open area to avoid debris. They try to get permission to do so at an airport, because those often have sturdy buildings that can be used for shelter if conditions become too dangerous.
"It's all about risk management," he said. "It's still risky, and certainly the adrenaline is pumping. It can take several days to conclude. By the end of it, you're really exhausted."
Current models do not have Matthew making landfall in
"We don't have to have landfall per se to get the data we want," Biggerstaff said. "We do need it close enough to the shore. This is a storm that gives us some fits when trying to forecast."
It leaves the SMART radar team and any meteorologist in a unique situation. No one wants to see the worst of storms, but researchers need them to do their work.
"You've got to have the storms to collect the data," Biggerstaff said. "What we need to do is collect the data to improve the forecast that will save lives in the future."
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