Eye on Ian: Hurricane Hunters fly into storm to gather data

Hurricane season is in full swing and with Hurricane Ian about to hit Florida, it’s prime time for the brave group we call the Hurricane Hunters.

Captain Davis White, a Hurricane Hunter meteorologist said, “So the mission for us is to gather recon data in the belly of the beast. There’s certain things about these storms and different weather phenomena we can only get if we fly through it.”

Flying through Hurricane Ian is exactly what the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron did early Tuesday morning.

Lt. Col. Brad Boudreaux, who is an instructor pilot with the group explained the reasons for flying into a deadly storm. “Early warning. To give people the early warnings so that they can prepare, that’s what it’s all about. With our data that we give to the National Hurricane Center, their forecasters can better determine what area is going to be hit, what area really needs to focus on evacuating.”

But, what’s it like being a hurricane hunter? Well, one would think it’s on the list of dream jobs for many people.

Lt. Col. Boudreaux said, “I just enjoy being in the air. I enjoy flying. When you break through the eyewall, you get into a storm like we saw today, and you got the blue sky above you, you got the water below you. It’s just a beautiful sight and now a lot of people get to see that.”

News 25 eventually got off the ground with the Hurricane Hunters as Hurricane Ian traveled north of Cuba. It started to rapidly intensify. Due to the threat Hurricane Ian poses to life and property with wind speeds upward of 120 MPH, a crucial mission must be performed. The mission includes gathering essential data for forecasters.

“So there’s several different instruments on the airplane that collect data every second, and then there’s other instruments that we drop out of the plane to get a better understanding of all of the air surrounding the airplane, not just the air that the airplane is in,” explained Capt. White.

“So in addition to that, we also have the Navy on board today dropping buoys out, so they can understand how the ocean is responding to this weather event, as well. So, it’s really a combination of a bunch of different techniques and methods just to get as much data as possible.”

Lt. Col. Boudreaux added, “We haven’t debriefed just yet, but from just what I saw during the flight, I believe that we collected quite a bit of information that shows that the storm is definitely getting stronger and we’re gonna give that information to the forecasters and let them come up with the forecast.”

The data the crew collects goes directly to the National Hurricane Center. And before the plane lands, all of that necessary data collected was used for forecasts while the plant was still en route.In the end, the crew has some very important words to share with people in Hurricane Ian’s path.

“Hurricane Ian is sort of bittersweet,” said Capt. White. “We got some amazing footage from it, it’s a magnificent storm, but it’s bittersweet in the fact that we know it’s gonna cause a lot of damage for a lot of people and we just want to make sure that everyone’s preparing if they need to prepare, and evacuating. And our hearts go out to those that are going to be affected by this storm.”

“Make sure you’ve got plenty of water, batteries, if you don’t have to stick around, don’t stick around, get somewhere safe, and out of the way,” added Lt. Col. Boudreaux

Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall in Florida Wednesday evening.


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