Storm sensor

This illustration shows the sentinel location relative to the dune and mean high water mark. 


Oak Island Town Council’s agreement with N.C. Sea Grant for placement of a temporary storm sensor puts the beach community at the forefront of hurricane science, not a small consideration for a barrier island with 9.5-miles of ocean shoreline.

The pact allows the University of Florida project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, to put a sensor station at SE 49th Street two or three days before an expected storm. Installation would be seaward of the dune and above mean high water.

The sophisticated temporary tower will be set up at the end of SE 49th Street, a block from Oak Island Water Rescue and Town Hall, two or three days before a storm. The team will use ground-penetrating radar to assure there are no undiscovered sea turtle nests or physical obstructions before setup. Then, they’ll use a single skid steer to position the four in-ground supports and the 33-foot mast, engineered to withstand the wind in part by a sailboat racing firm. It can be set up and removed rapidly.

The tower will assess wind speed and direction, tilting, hydrological, chemical and biological conditions, water height and wave direction and relative erosion.

“Hurricanes cause widespread interruption to metrological …measurement stations exactly at the time when operational and research interests need them most,” the overview by Sea Grant’s Spencer Rogers stated. “Using state-of the-art monitoring stations … we will continuously transmit live, high-fidelity data and video feeds along the shoreline where the hurricane core transitions from ocean to land, providing a first indicator for deteriorating weather conditions as the storm makes landfall.”

Researchers went on to say that the system was designed for rapid deployment and structural integrity.

“The Sentinel Project is a culmination of more than two decades of conducting field data collection from landfalling tropical cyclones,” the researchers noted.

The goal is to have three sentinels ready for the current storm season and more for future years.

It will take about two hours to assemble and disassemble the sentinel structures, which will have live video feeds.