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When Love Rains, It Hails

Guy with a computer

A hail research field study isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of romantic. Swapping candle lit dinners for life on the road chasing storms probably wouldn’t work for most couples. But Dr. Tanya Brown and Dr. Ian Giammanco are anything but conventional.

Dr. Tanya Brown is the lead research engineer and director of hail research for the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). She conducts a major field study on hailstorms with a team that includes lead research meteorologist Dr. Ian Giammanco.

In addition to their research, the pair also happens to be dating.

Giammanco and Brown met while attending graduate school at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, where they worked on several thunderstorm and hurricane field research projects. Since then, amid week-long beef jerky binges and of course the storms, Giammanco and Brown found some common ground.

two students

The Research

IBHS develops safety research that can be translated into real world solutions, and the hail study is no exception. Giammanco and Brown seek to improve weather forecasts and influence the design of roofing products to be better prepared for hail damage.

Their hope is to leverage this study to decrease property losses caused by hail. The the work is being done in the central plain region of the United States. They study hail characteristics such as size, shape, density and hardness, so they can come as close as possible to Mother nature when they produce hailstones at the IBHS Research Center.

Love at First Hail

According to Brown, “We definitely did not have a love at first site kind of relationship. We had known each other equipmentfor at least a year before we really ever had a conversation more than just saying hi while passing in the hallway.”

At the time they met, years before the hail field study had begun, they realized they both had a passion for field research.

It takes a special kind of love not only to be research partners, but also life partners. Brown explains, “I’d say our dedication to field work is what really ties us together.”

Bonded by a common goal that will eventually benefit the common good , their relationship is the perfect blend of uniqueness. “There’s not a lot of people out there that will basically give up their whole life for weeks or even months at a time to live in crummy hotels and eat fast food every meal of every day, not to mention braving the wind, hail, rain and storm surge, and actually enjoy doing it and get to do it with their significant other,” says Brown.

Benefits of the Study

The pair remains motivated; they believe in the good that this study will be able to produce. According to IBHS, as the population increases and the spacing between buildings decrease, there has been a significant uptick in damage due to hailstorms. In fact, from 1999 to 2011 hail was the number one cause of losses for Texas homeowners coming in at $10.4 billion according to The Texas Department of Insurance.

State Farm supports the work of Dr. Brown and Dr. Giammanco and believes in the good that can come from this kind of research. Besides studying hail, researchers also test hail resistant roofing material in the hopes of preventing damage. The field study also seeks to improve weather forecast models and hail detection.

Ups and Downs

But working with a loved one isn’t always easy, “we do disagree sometimes about the project, but ultimately we will arrive at what is best for the project, and that is a big reason that we’ve been so successful,” Giammanco says.

Ultimately their differences complement each other, Giammanco explains, “Tanya makes sure that I let things go when I need to so that I don’t obsess about things like a missed forecast or not enough data.”

Brown explains further, “We have worked together for so long that we really have a natural rhythm, and each take advantage of each other’s strengths. There are a lot of things I don’t have to worry about taking care of because I know he’s got my back and vice-versa. It makes us really efficient and successful.”

The most difficult part of their nomadic relationship is having them both away from home at the same time, “there’s no one there to check the mail, water and cut the grass, and most importantly, take care of my beagles,” Brown says.

But they know they are meant to be together. “Tanya is the only girl I know who would swim and wade through storm surge water to retrieve instrumentation during a field project, so she is the girl for me!” Giammanco says.

The Impact

With all the good Brown and Giammanco hoped would come out of their studying of severe weather, love was not what they expected, but they’re glad it did. Even still, they remain dedicated and focused on their work, Brown says, “We definitely push each other to achieve success and fill in each other’s gaps, which makes us well-suited to tackling such a complex issue such as hail. We’re definitely looking forward to continuing our research partnership both in the field and in the lab, and look forward to making a huge impact in the coming years.”

The more successful the study is the better educated homeowners, insurance companies, and roofing manufacturers can be. With this knowledge and combined power, hailstorm damage can hopefully fall significantly.

2013 IBHS Hail Field Project Highlights from IBHS on Vimeo.