OU researchers go to extremes for hurricane data


SMART radar and NSSL Mobile Mesonet in Georgia on their way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo provided by Addison Alford.

George Stoia

A University of Oklahoma graduate student and professor traveled to Florida the past week, sleeping in their cars to collect data from Hurricane Irma that will help predict future forecasts.  

Ph.D student Addison Alford and meteorology professor Mike Biggerstaff drove to Fort Lauderdale, Florida last Wednesday, Sept. 6 hoping to collect enough information to help better predict future hurricanes and tornadoes. Joined by Dr. Sean Waugh of NSSL and research scientist Gordon Carrie, Alford and Biggerstaff took three vehicles on their trip, each playing a role in their research. The team drove a computer-filled van, a Dodge truck with a weather mesonet and a six-wheel trailer-truck with a SMART radar on the back.

With the electricity out in the majority of hotels in the area, the team had to stay in their cars for two nights. While the team was in Florida, they gathered important data they hope will explain why hurricanes happen when they do. Despite sleeping in vehicles for two nights, Alford and his crew said it was all worth it.

“Sleeping in a vehicle can only be so comfortable, but we were so tired at that point I will say I was pleasantly surprised,” Alford said. “These events are affecting people’s lives and anything that we can do to make a forecast better, it’s worth it.”

Due to funding, Alford and the team don’t expect to chase more hurricanes this year, but now the real work begins as they try to break down the data.