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Sensors ready to monitor bridges during hurricanes

A washed out bridge is shown after Hurricane Ike September 14, 2008 in Gilchrist, Texas. (Credit: David J. Phillip/Getty Images)

Researchers are starting to gather real-time data on how waves and rising water affect bridges during hurricanes.

Civil engineering professor Jennifer Bridge of the University of Florida and her students are investigating how best to provide early warning to communities when a bridge is in danger of failing due to storm damage.

Monitoring coastal bridge health could also help engineers design more reliable bridges in the future.

Previous studies have relied on tests in wave laboratories, rather than data directly from bridges in actual storms.

This summer, the team has been deploying the bridge-mounted smart sensor system it developed in the lab. The custom-designed system involves adaptive sampling methods to capture wave impacts without overwhelming the system’s memory or power.

For now, they’re focusing on concrete bridges in Florida’s low-lying coastal areas, like the type of bridges that failed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Eventually, they plan to rapidly deploy their system on bridges that are in the path of approaching storms and capture measurements of waves, surge, scour, and wind.

Support for the research came from the National Science Foundation.

Source: National Science Foundation