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Collected Data - Isabel

 Summary Tower Deployment
Tower Data Pressure Tap Setup Pressure Tap Data


 Details - Hurricane Isabel
 Storm Path:  Storm Facts:

 Storm Life  September 6 - October 19, 2003
 Landfall  Cape Lookout, NC

Cat II

 September 15-20, 2003
 $1.685 billion
 Casualties  16
 Links  NOAA - NHC, AOML

Source:  NOAA Hurricane Isabel Tropical Cyclone Report
             (author: Jack Beven and Hugh Cobb)

Synopsis of FCMP Deployment

Isabel captured the attention of the FCMP during the second week of September 2003. Initially, it appeared that the storm’s path would bring in within striking distance of Florida’s Atlantic coastline as it emerged from the Greater Antilles. Uncertainty in the forecast beyond that point, namely the influence of troughs/ridges that would eventually steer the storm, brought great trepidation to communities in hurricane prone regions of the Atlantic coast. At its peak intensity, the hurricane, with Saffir-Simpson Category 5 winds and a 50-nm eye, represented a major threat to lives and property.

By the end of the week, meteorologists at NOAA’s Tropical Prediction Center had narrowed the projected path of the storm to landfall somewhere in or above the Carolinas. On Saturday, September 13, FCMP teams were put on standby, anticipating deployment to that region. Final testing of the new “internet-capable” data acquisition system completed earlier in the week, and for the first time, the FCMP mobile towers were synced with forecasters at the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA to transmit real-time high resolution data every 15 minutes from the field. Equipped with this new technology, the team from the University of Florida left Monday with towers T1 and T2 and arrived in Morehead City, NC early Tuesday.

The optimal location for a tower (for maximum winds) is north of the predicted landfall for a hurricane striking the Atlantic coast. Achieving this end required tower deployment around the outer banks, a great challenge for the FCMP. First, traveling on barrier islands required that the team arrive well in advance of the closures of inbound traffic lanes. Secondly, potential tower sites were limited by the storm surge potential for that area.

After coordinating with the Clemson University FCMP team and researchers from Texas Tech University, the UF team decided to deploy T2 proximal to Morehead City, (north of the latest forecasted landfall). With the help of South Carolina Sea Grant, the team contacted the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and received permission to erect at Tower at Fort Macon State Park. T2 went operational at 11:30 AM EDT, and afterwards, the team secured lodging in Morehead City.

For the remainder of the afternoon, the team scouted Craven and Pamlico counties to locate a site amenable to the new satellite tower system, which required an open 200’ swath of land to erect the three towers. As nightfall approached, it became apparent that the majority of the coastline was unacceptable for deployment, given the reach of the estuary system and its favorable environment for flooding and storm surge. The team backtracked its survey and received permission to deploy the towers on a horse ranch in Oriental, a small town five miles inland. Meanwhile, the Clemson FCMP team arrived in Wilmington to begin instrumentation of a home the following day.

Early Wednesday morning, the UF team traveled from Morehead City to Wilmington to reorganize teams. The first (southern) team remained in Wilmington to instrument the home, and the second (northern) team pulled the remaining towers northward to deploy in Elizabeth City (T0) and Cape Hatteras (T3), two population centers with established local contacts and potential for higher ground. As the northern team split off, 36 hours remained until the expected landfall of Isabel.

The T0 Team secured a site at the Elizabeth City Coast Guard Airstation. Bordering Pamlico Sound, the flat expanse of terrain afforded by the airport provided a significant amount of upwind open exposure. After some modifications to the new software were made, T0 went operational at 1:41 AM EDT. The team secured lodging for the entire northern team nearby.

The T3 team traveled through Manteo to reach the outer banks. After conferring with locals, the team decided to deploy the tower at Billy Mitchell Airport, purportedly the highest ground in Cape Hatteras. T3 went operational at 10:14 PM EDT, and afterwards, the team drove to Elizabeth City to join up with the remainder of the northern team to bunker at the Coast Guard Airstation.

Meanwhile, the southern team had split, allowing one group to complete the home instrumentation and the other to refill the onboard generator on T1 in Oriental. New information concerning flooding at the existing site, however, prompted the team to relocate the tower. With the home nearing completion, the team decided to relocate T1 to capture the wind field in the vicinity of the house. The teams recombined and erected the tower system at a nearby boat ramp. T1 restarted at 12:20 AM EDT.

After the storm passed, the priority of all teams involved became retrieval of instrumentation. For towers, T0, T1 and T2, this was a straightforward operation, but extracting T3 from Cape Hatteras required significantly more effort than inserting it. Multiple roadblocks separated the team from the tower, each progressively more difficult to negotiate. After acquiring the proper permit, the team stopped in Kill Devil Hills to perform damage surveys. The imposed mandatory curfew throughout the outerbanks forced the team to continue south to collect the remaining tower, however.

The storm surge that impacted the strip of land between Nags Head and Rodanthe rendered US 12 impassable in some areas, leaving up to 6 ft. of aerated sand across the roadway. Using the 4-wheel drive and bypassing the road via the beach, the team inched their way down the coastline, arriving in Cape Hatteras in the early afternoon. With the assistance of several road crews (and their bulldozers), the team returned to the mainland that night.

Participating Team Members
Luis Aponte
Matt Burrell
Bryan Dick
John Gamache
Cos Gardener
Kurt Gurley, PhD
Jimmy Jesteadt
Jon Lamb
Zhuzhao Liu
Forrest Masters
Matt McCann
Tim Reinhold, PhD
Scott Robinette
Jereme Williams
Chet Zabik

Spencer Rogers, North Carolina Sea Grant



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