November 11, 2010 -- Slidell, LA -- WorldWinds, Inc., has installed one of the most powerful computer clusters in the New Orleans area at Slidell’s Gause Boulevard Complex. WorldWinds purchased the system to run storm surge simulations for historical and hypothetical hurricanes that will be used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop new flood zone maps. WorldWinds' executives think it is an ideal location for the new computer cluster because of its high level of security and multiple sources of backup power, allowing for work without interruption. The Slidell Gause Boulevard Complex also houses Textron Marine and Land Systems and the St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office.
The site once served as home to the former NASA Slidell Computer Complex where NASA first placed computers in 1962 to support Saturn space vehicle construction at the Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans. The NASA Slidell Computer Complex was one of the most powerful in the country.
Those early computer systems were strikingly different from today’s sleek and modern machines. The old systems would often fill an entire room with thousands of circuit boards, card readers, printers, and racks of tape drives. Additionally, an army of technicians were needed to toggle switches, mount tapes, and repair equipment, which failed every few days.
Dan Yeates, Superintendent of Public Operations for the City of Slidell reminisces, “Contractor’s cars filled the entire parking lot at Gause Boulevard and Robert Road. A large room housed key punch operators who typed instructions and data onto punch cards that filled many boxes.” John Autry, Slidell's Information Systems Manager, added, “The systems were so fragile that if the lights blinked, the maintenance engineers would start running towards the computers like they were firemen to protect the equipment.”
In stark contrast, the new computer cluster purchased by WorldWinds, Inc. fits in two racks only six feet tall by four feet wide. It is housed in the computer room in the basement of the building, and only requires two WorldWinds' staff members to operate it. Hurricane storm surge simulations will run around the clock on the new computer, with much of the operation unattended.
“Storm surge simulations that previously took days to run on our old computer system now take only a few minutes”, explains Elizabeth Valenti, WorldWinds CEO. “The new hurricane storm surge simulations will be used by FEMA to determine the likelihood of flooding in coastal areas as a result of hurricane water and winds. A high performance computer is needed for the model runs in order to correctly position levees, roads, and channels.”
The model estimates the water level at each 30-foot grid point every 15 minutes, given the characteristics of a simulated hurricane (size, forward speed, maximum winds). Model runs will initially be made for Georgia and northeast Florida while new flood maps for the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts were produced shortly after Hurricane Katrina.
WorldWinds, Inc. continuously gathers weather and ocean information from many sources and packages it into usable products for the public. This wealth of information is evaluated, assembled, and disseminated through a network of computers located across the southeastern US. In addition to running storm surge models, WorldWinds, Inc. provides customized weather information for mariners and emergency responders. In cooperation with Baron Services, detailed satellite images, sea surface temperature maps, buoy observations, and wind forecasts are transmitted via the XM WX Satellite Service, http://xmwxweather.com. To help fishermen in their quest, WorldWinds developed a product called FishBytes that identifies preferred fishing locations. It is available on the same XM WX Satellite Service.
WorldWinds, Inc. develops cutting edge technology from NASA, the US Navy, NOAA, and other government partners into state-of-the-art products and services that benefit the public. WorldWinds is an active member of the EIGS geospatial technology cluster of the Magnolia Business Alliance (MBA). MBA’s goal is to impact economic development by serving as an advocate for small and medium sized businesses. For more information about WorldWinds, Inc., visit www.worldwindsinc.com.