FGCU developing technology that can predict weather damage before it happens


What if you could predict the effects of a hurricane before it makes landfall? That is precisely the goal of local researchers as they have developed a new way to study hurricane flooding…with the help of virtual reality.

When it comes to hurricanes, researchers look for new ways to get ahead of the curve.

“One hundred year rainfall events are not hundred years anymore. It’s happening so often and the frequency is increasing, but also the rainfall intensity and duration is increasing,” said Dr. Seneshaw Tsegaye, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering at FGCU.

Which means we need to adapt, and that is where FGCU’s College of Engineers come in.

“What it does is in the 3D environment, it uses a virtual reality tool to simulate flooding,” said Dr. Tsegaye.

Through virtual reality, instructors and students work side-by-side to simulate hurricane flooding on FGCU’s landscape.

Currently, the model uses data from previous weather events like Hurricane Irma.

“The tools are already existent, so we can use our existing tools for any area, just put in, ‘OK, we’ve got 20 inches of rain, how does it look like?” said Sebastian Weber, Lab Coordinator at Whitaker College of Engineering.

With more money and some refinement, this technology could be applied to communities in Southwest Florida to predict effects of future hurricanes.

“Being able to visualize it in virtual reality lets you see the effects immediately…you don’t need a background in statistics to understand the impact,” said Garrett Fairburn of FGCU.

“It feels great as a student and as a future professional engineer, being able to use tools that could be used in the future, or that will be used in the future, to help visualize and to help the decision makers make these important decisions,” said Jason Hock of FGCU.

In the face of the unpredictable, this technology could give Southwest Florida a fighting chance.

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