CSU hurricane researcher watches ‘unprecedented’ storms unfold with family in bull’s-eye

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Andrea Schumacher sits shaking her head as she stares at the loops repeating themselves on her multiple computer screens.

“Every time I look at it I shake my head,” she said.

It’s hard enough for anyone to watch the devastation being laid out by Hurricane Irma with Hurricane Jose following the same path on the storm’s heels.

But Schumacher is watching as both a hurricane researcher and a family member. She works inside the Colorado Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

“Personally, I’ve never seen two storms of that magnitude back to back like this with a third in the basin as well. This is really something I think that is relatively rare if not unprecedented,” Schumacher said.

She’s spent more than a decade collecting data and analyzing hurricanes at CIRA, which works closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We focus on satellite imagery and we use a lot of the new satellite technologies to create forecast products that give guidance to the hurricane forecasters,” Schumacher said.

Schumacher and other scientists at CIRA helped develop new tools such as a Rapid Intensification Index to help better understand massive storms like these.

This time, she’s having a hard time putting her head around how powerful the storms have become knowing that her family is in harm’s way.

“I got into the hurricane science because I grew up in Florida and I have lots of family there and so what I think when I see something like this is it’s a worst case scenario and the impacts are just going to be something we have not seen,” Schumacher said.

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