I am very excited about the next several days. There is a lot going on as we close in on the start of hurricane season. It all begins, for me anyway, in Houston this Saturday.
I will be flying out on Friday for the Houston Hurricane Workshop this Saturday. It is an enormous hurricane preparedness and information event held at the convention center in downtown Houston. I will have a booth there with my good friend and colleague Kerry Mallory – who is also the Amateur Radio operator for our HURRB project, more on that in a moment.
The workshop features speakers on hurricane preparedness, forecasting and recovery. There are numerous business, non-profits and emergency response/management groups on site as well. The workshop is billed as the largest of its kind in the nation – fitting for Texas, right? It is open to the public, costs no money to get in and runs from 10am until 3pm at the George R. Brown convention center. Come on by and say hello – while you’re there, you can meet HURRB before we send him to the edge of space. Which brings me to my next topic…
We began the HURRB or Hurricane Research Balloon project in 2012 with the idea that we could launch a payload via weather balloon in to the eye of a hurricane at its landfall along the U.S. coastline. At the time, we were hoping to gather GPS data along with HD video from our GoPro cams mounted on the payload. We tested the project near Buffalo, Texas in late May of 2012 with about as perfect a set of results as one could expect. Now it is time to take it to the next level.
The first generation of HURRB was made out of styrofoam – a simple $2.57 cooler from Walmart. It served its purpose but lacked the strength that we felt we needed in the payload. After all, this is meant to endure the powerful winds of a hurricane.
Meet the second generation of HURRB. It’s made out of a small Storm Case, just like the ones we use for our Storm Surge cams. It is tough and will handle the forces that it may encounter during its ride in to and back from the eye of a hurricane.
This time, we are going smaller. The GoPro cams area smaller, and thus weigh less. The payload is smaller and looks more like a payload than a flying cooler. Inside of it is where the magic awaits. We have acquired a high-altitude weather computer specifically designed for use in weather balloon studies. It will measure and record temperature, humidity and air pressure every six seconds. It will also log GPS data throughout the entire flight. I love data and cannot wait to see what we get when we test it on Monday.
Our plan is to travel north from Houston on Saturday after the workshop. We will then pick up our tech guru, Paul, from DFW. After some planning and careful analysis of the upper air charts, we will head to Ardmore, Oklahoma on Monday morning to launch HURRB. Right now, we hope to let it go between 8am and 9am local time (9 to 10 ET). The flight should last about 90 minutes. We will have satellite and APRS tracking so we will know where HURRB is at all times. If all goes well, we will recover the payload somewhere over the open country of southeast Oklahoma with some incredible data to look over. Add to that the stunning HD video, from one cam looking up and the other cam looking down, and it makes for an exciting day of science.
We hope to learn more about how the equipment functions as well as get our timing down to as little as possible. Remember, we want to launch HURRB in the eye of a hurricane at landfall. We must move fast to get everything ready and HURRB in the air before the center of the eye moves away from us. Our goal is to have everything prepped and HURRB in the air in less than 10 minutes. It can be done and that’s what Monday’s practice will help us do.
HURRB can be launched at night too if we must. We cannot control when a hurricane makes landfall and if we get one at night, then up HURRB goes. While we won’t see much, if anything, from the GoPro cams, we will capture excellent high-frequency weather data from the surface of the earth to 100,000 feet or higher. In fact, we can even launch in a tropical storm if conditions allow. There is much to learn about tropical cyclones as they make landfall and because recon is generally not flown during landfall, launching weather balloons seems like a logical solution to the problem.
Follow HURRB on Twitter @hurrb as he will be Tweeting along his journey on Monday. Might even have a selfie or two – you just never know what HURRB will do once he’s awakened and powered on.
I will post more from the workshop this Saturday. If you’re in the area, please stop by. We’ll have one of our anemometers set up high on a pole so you’ll know it’s us. Come by and meet HURRB and register for our awesome prize package which includes a free 1 year membership to our Client Services site. Then, it’s on to the 2014 hurricane season. We’ll be ready, hope you are too.
M. Sudduth 10:23 am May 28