Tracking hurricanes is a passion for one scientist - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Tracking hurricanes is a passion for one scientist

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By Sonya Stevens
sstevens@abcnews4.com

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- For one man, studying and tracking hurricanes has become his lifelong passion.

"There is nothing like a hurricane on Earth and to be in one rather on purpose or just by chance and in our case-- my team and I -- it's on purpose," said Mark Sudduth. "It's the closest that we will ever come to being on another planet is the way I look at it."

Mark Sudduth has made it his mission to get valuable data from these large storms so we can learn more about them.

"To take an anemometer and measure the hurricane and not just be there for the sake of it, but to actually measure it and understand what is going with the wind speed, the air pressure," said Sudduth, who is founder of hurricanetrack.com.

Sudduth and his crew also have eyes out in the field when the storm hits.

"This camera system will run giving people a view of what the hurricane is doing up to 30 hours now from 15 just a few years ago," said Sudduth. "We are very excited about that because that will allow us to put these units in places that were way too dangerous in the past even with a 15 hour window."

His hope is that seeing the impacts online in real time will help keep people safe.

"You can see the surge as it starts to come in, the effects of the hurricane, hopefully encouraging those people to evacuate. If we have put one of these units where you live in your community, you don't want to be there," said Sudduth.

Somewhere else you don't want to be is the eye of the hurricane, but that's exactly where the crew's newest addition, HURR-B, will be headed.

"We put this inside of a cooler with lots and lots of tape around it -- very well engineered -- and up it goes via a weather balloon that expands to the size of a Mack Truck. This huge, huge balloon expands because of the low pressure of the atmosphere, it bursts at about 100,000 feet and falls back down," said Sudduth.

This instrument will be able to get valuable information, including GPS data along with video from a GoPro camera -- but getting it up in the storm could be a challenge.

"You have to get the eye of the hurricane to go right over you or we do to launch this and we have to get it ready in less than 10 minutes, so everything has to be ready to go, we have to fill that balloon, tie it all off, make sure everything is turned on and then let it go," said Sudduth.

And for the crew it will mean getting in the middle of the action.

"We actually have to sort of break one of our rules to do it and that is to be out in the hurricane, but we'll have to choose a safe location where there is no debris and obviously if it is a really strong hurricane we'll probably have to just pass and say well we can't do it in this one," said Sudduth.

HURR-B costs between $2,000-3000, but for scientists like Sudduth it's well worth the price since nobody has ever done anything like this before.

All of the data collected goes back to the community for research and most is available to the public too.

If HURR-B is deployed this hurricane season, you can follow it on Twitter @HurrB.

You can follow Mark and his crew's work here.


  • Sonya Stevens

    Email: sstevens@abcnews4.com Reporter Profile




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