Hurricane Irma presented an interesting problem to Catherine Edwards and other glider operators in the Southeast. They had several gliders deployed off the east coast as the hurricane approached, including Skidaway Institute’s glider, “Modena.” Catherine and the others were confident the gliders themselves would be safe in the water, but the computer servers that control them would not.
Catherine working on “Modena”
The gliders are equipped with satellite phones. Periodically, they call their home server, download data and receive instructions for their next operation. It was expected that Skidaway Institute would lose power for at least several days (as did happen.) However, Skidaway’s back-up partner at the University of South Florida’s marine science facility in St. Petersburg, Fla. was also directly in the storm’s projected path.
“In the week before she hit, Irma sort of blew up our hurricane emergency plans,” Catherine said.
Several other options, including Teledyne Webb’s back-up servers and Rutgers University were not feasible for technical reasons. Glider operators at Texas A&M University came to the rescue. Catherine was able to instruct Modena to switch its calls over the Texas A&M server. No data was lost and Modena continued its mission.
According to Catherine, two big lessons emerged from the experience.
“First, most of us rely on nearby or regional partners for emergency andback-up support, but disasters are regional by nature, and the same Nor’easter or hurricane can take down you along with your backup,” she said. “Second, there aren’t a lot of glider centers that can absorb several gliders on a day’s notice, and there are some compatibility and operations issues involved, so it is best to identify our potential partners and build out these steps into our emergency plans well in advance.”