Data Buoy To Aid Hurricane Forecasters

Buoy number 42056 bobbed up and down along the Port of Gulfport's east pier. The yellow contraption was about to be towed to a Coast Guard cutter, and then to the Caribbean, so it could collect hurricane information.

Mike Burdette is NOAA's Project Manager.

"No one can stop the hurricanes," he said. "But through our efforts, hopefully we can warn people a little bit better."

Burdette headed up the hurricane buoy project. He said the computer technology inside the buoy should help forecasters could do a better job monitoring 2005 storms.

"It can provide wind and wave and pressure measurements to help determine what the extent of the tropical storm circulation is, the maximum winds, and how the storm is moving through the Caribbean."

Typically, NOAA oceanographers spend almost two years developing these sorts of buoys. But last fall, Congress gave the Stennis Space Center team just a handful of months to float hurricane detection equipment out to sea.

According to Burdette, "It's been a real challenge for us trying to get this done as quick as we can."

On Friday, a Gulfport tow boat escorted the 100,000 pound buoy on the first leg of its journey to a spot near the Yucatan.

"The real beauty, it will be when it's in place, and transmitting back to us from where it's supposed to be," said Burdette.

As 42056 headed out to sea to meet up with the next storm, it passed its sister buoy.

Next week, 42055 leaves the Port of Gulfport to collect similar hurricane data. By June, six new data buoys developed in Hancock County, will be tracking Gulf and Caribbean storms.

The federal government set aside $1.8 million so NOAA oceanographers in Hancock County could develop the hurricane monitoring buoys.