You'd have to be crazy to fly a plane into a hurricane, right?
Well for these seven Mississippi strong military men and women, it's a typical part of the job. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, or Hurricane Hunters, are part of the Air Force Reserve at Keesler AFB. It's their duty to fly into tropical weather systems and collect data on the storm.
WLBT First Alert Meteorologist Julia Weiden joined the Hurricane Hunters on their flight into the eye of Hurricane Matthew, a category 2 storm with surface winds sustained at 105 mph at the time..
Stepping on board the C-130 aircraft is a sensory overload, making earplugs necessary in order to avoid hearing damage.
The aircraft is fully equipped to record data about the storm. Lt. Col. Shannon Hailes points out one instrument, called the SMRF. It is used to measure wind speed on the surface of the ocean.
After some routine maintenance checks, it's time for takeoff! Just two hours later, the crew is in the eye of the storm at a low level of just 10 thousand feet!
Maj. Kyle Larson is the on board weather officer, and it's his job is to coordinate where weather instruments, called sondes, are dropped into the storm to collect data. He says, "They work a lot like a weather balloon, but in reverse. So wind speed, wind direction, pressure, temperature, humidity."
Buoys are also dropped down into the Atlantic Ocean, gathering information about the conditions at the surface of the water. This type of data helps enhance computer models, making for better tropical weather forecasts in the long run.
And that's the WHOLE purpose of this mission- to collect data and relay it back to the Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center, who then use it to make a more accurate hurricane forecast.
After an 11 hour flight, the wheels are down and the mission accomplished!
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