Good Morning Chairwoman Stevens and thank you for holding this hearing on the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program. We in Oklahoma, like Florida, are very familiar with the damage windstorms can cause. Efforts to reduce the loss of life and property from these disasters are of extreme importance to my family, friends, and neighbors.
Each year, lives are lost and billions are spent recovering from the destruction caused by tornadoes, hurricanes, and other windstorms. And the costs associated with windstorms are increasing. Oklahoma is part of “tornado alley” And so far in 2021, we have experienced 25 tornadoes. Thankfully, none have resulted in serious damage or loss of life. But over the past 10 years, tornados have caused an average financial loss of over $10 billion per year across the Country. NWIRP helps provide coordination between federal government agencies, universities, industry, and local and state governments. This cooperation is needed to meet the great challenge of responding to windstorms.
One example of such research is the TORUS project that the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are supporting and the University of Oklahoma is part of. This project involves more than 50 researchers and students using different tools to, including unmanned aircraft systems, mobile radars, and NOAA’s “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft to collect data on supercell thunderstorms across the Great Plains during 2019 and 2022. The team was unable to go into the field during 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. During the 2019 field season, after 32 days on the road and traveling more than 9,000 miles, researchers encountered 19 supercell storms, with eight of those storms producing tornadoes. Researchers expect results from the TORUS project to be groundbreaking. The insights gained will improve our understanding of why some supercells create tornadoes and others do not, leading to improved forecasting. This research is important, but it is also key that we find practical and effective applications for this research, so that it reaches those who need it most – states and local communities.
NWIRP is directed to conduct research and development to help improve building codes, voluntary standards, and construction practices to improve the resilience of structures to windstorms. These investments in R&D activities support the creation of improved windstorm impact reduction measures, such as increased warning time and the development of safe room building guidance. While it has seen some success, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on how we can better improve the transfer of this research to the building code communities. In addition, I look forward to hearing what steps N-WIRP is taking to improve public outreach and information dissemination. It is important we continue to support the federal research done through NWIRP to improve our understanding of windstorms, their impacts, and to develop enhanced mitigation measures.
I would like to thank our witnesses for coming today to share their expertise on the challenges, and hopefully successes, of reducing windstorm impacts. Thank you and I yield back the balance of my time.