May 5, 2014

Technology and Tornadoes


Shelby: It is time to get your geek on! And today we are heading to tornado territory, where student researchers are studying severe weather and helping their communities prepare for storms. Tom Hanson has the story.

Tom: Tornados, flash floods and torrential rains. It is the time of year when severe storms sweep across the country and damage seems inevitable. But some students are using these storms as a chance to learn. These conditions are exactly what students at Texas Tech are looking for.

Scott Gunter: They’ve been in the shed for a while. They’re ready to get out and get the dust blown out, and hopefully collect some good data.

Tom: PhD student Scott Gunter is talking about a device called a stick-net, a nearly seven-foot-tall piece of equipment that gathers wind speed, temperature and humidity – data that can be used to better prepare communities for future storms. They set them up while the storms are happening. It’s a dangerous task.

Gunter: There are several parts that are very prone to being damaged from hail. And we have to watch for lightning. It’s not good to hold a big metal object in the sky when there’s lightning all around you.

Tom: For Gunter though, it is all about the wind.

Gunter: That way, when people are building buildings and houses, they can account for that wind and hopefully reduce things like the roof coming off of the house or garage doors getting blown in.

Tom: He hopes his research can be used to better prepare buildings for serious storms, keeping everyone safe and damage to a minimum.

Gunter: Ultimately, that’s what we want to try to do is mitigate it so these storms produce less damage because we’re building buildings better.

Tom: Researching storms has become a popular trend in schools across the country. And according to the latest reports, they will have plenty more to work with in the months to come. In 2014 alone, we have already seen 240 tornados. And, as experts say, as temperatures continue to warm up across the U.S., we can expect plenty more headed our way.

From the grounds to the skies, students at Oklahoma State University are redefining the conventional definition of a storm chaser. They are using these drones to fly into storm cells and help predict tornadoes.

Jacobs: This week just illustrates how important the need is for us to use unmanned technology in severe weather applications. These unmanned aircraft are really one of the perfect solutions to get this data.

Tom: Data that could mean the difference between life and death.

Tom Hanson, Channel One News.


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