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OU professor, members of OU researcher team travel to Gulf of Mexico to collect data from Hurricane Laura

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SMART-R meteorology (copy)

The OU Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching (SMART) Radar team collected data on Hurricane Florence in 2018.

According to a press release, an OU professor is part of a team of research scientists who have traveled to the Gulf of Mexico to collect data during the landfall of Hurricane Laura.

In an interview with The Daily, OU professor of meteorology Michael Biggerstaff said he received funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to study landfalling hurricanes for the last few years. He said this funding has allowed the OU research team to travel and study such an “important storm.”

Biggerstaff said Hurricane Laura has played an important role in informing engineers about how to build homes in hurricane-prone areas.

“According to my colleagues at the NIST, (Hurricane Laura) is one of the most extreme wind events in that part of the United States (that) has ever occurred,” Biggerstaff said. “It becomes the new standard for winning engineers to design homes to be able to withstand that kind of damage.”

Members of the OU researchers’ team  — data scientist Gordon Carrie, Cooperative Institute Research scientist Kim Elmore, doctoral students Addison Alford and Noah Brauer, and undergraduate students Robert Moore and Jeffrey Stevenson — are working on real-time data in coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Severe Storms Laboratory (NOAA NSSL) and emergency managers from areas harmed by the hurricane.

“We want to help mitigate property damage by working with engineers,” Biggerstaff said in the release. “(And by) using our data to improve the building and construction codes needed to develop a more resilient national infrastructure in the future.” 

The Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies and the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences are operating Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching Radars (SMART) along with Mobile Mesonet weather instruments provided by NOAA NSSL. 

The OU community will have access to Hurricane’s Laura data through the NIST website once the OU researchers team organizes it for better understanding, Biggerstaff said.

In the interview, Biggerstaff said the OU research team put together a COVID-19 protocol for their trip that included wearing gloves while in their study area, using hand sanitizer, and restrictions for hotel stays and interactions. This protocol had to be approved based on the OU Safe and Resilient Instructional Plan.

Biggerstaff thanked the OU administration and federal agencies in the interview for the support shown in his last 22 years of data research and for their commitment to keeping updating these data.

Marien López-Medina is an international student and United World Colleges alumna from Nicaragua. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in public and nonprofit administration and works as a news reporter for The Daily.

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