As millions of Florida residents braced for Hurricane Ian as it tracked into the state on Wednesday, a team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) personnel jumped on a plane and s is directed directly at him.
Dramatic video footage (below) captured by NOAA engineer Nick Underwood shows the plane swaying and rolling in serious turbulence as it passed through the hurricane, with a particularly nasty bump at 2: 06.
The tough ride will have been fully expected – you just needed nerves of steel and a rock hard stomach to handle it. Still, for Underwood, the scale of the turmoil came as a surprise.
“When I say this was the toughest flight of my career so far, I mean it,” Underwood said in a tweet accompanying the footage. “I’ve never seen bunks come out like this. There was coffee everywhere. I have never felt such sideways movement.
Continuation of the galley. pic.twitter.com/YsomJw2J5f
—Tropical Nick Underwood (@TheAstroNick) September 28, 2022
To be clear, the NOAA team didn’t fly into the eye of the storm for fun. Instead, the plane – essentially a high-flying weather station – collected data to help forecasters make accurate forecasts. The data is also fed to researchers looking to learn more about storm processes, which in turn can help improve forecasting models.
The aircraft Underwood and his team flew in was one of two NOAA Lockheed WP-3D Orion aircraft, this one being nicknamed Kermit.
Scientists on these missions deploy GPS drop probes – scientific instruments fitted with parachutes – which are dropped from the plane as it flies over the hurricane.
“These instruments continuously transmit measurements of pressure, humidity, temperature, wind direction and speed as they fall seaward, providing detailed insight into the structure of the storm and its intensity,” explains Marine and Air Operations Office on its website. website. “The P-3’s tail Doppler radar and lower fuselage radar systems, meanwhile, scan the storm both vertically and horizontally, giving scientists and forecasters real-time insight into the storm. P-3s can also deploy probes called bathythermographs that measure sea temperature.
“In addition to conducting research to help scientists better understand hurricanes and other types of tropical cyclones, NOAA P-3s participate in storm reconnaissance missions when tasked to do so by the National Hurricane NOAA National Weather Service Center The purpose of these missions is primarily to locate the center of the storm and measure central pressure and surface winds around the eye.
NOAA also tweeted incredible satellite images showing widespread lightning storms inside Hurricane Ian.
As #HurricaneIan churns near Cuba, #GOESest can see his distinct eye as well as #flash flashing around the storm.#ian is a major category 3 #hurricane which continues to strengthen in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.
Latest: https://t.co/FYrreOueMf pic.twitter.com/Rh85xqu0Rt
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) September 27, 2022
Hurricane Ian left Cuba without power after hitting the island on Tuesday. As of this writing, it’s too early to know the full extent of Hurricane Ian’s impact on Florida, but the ferocity of the storm suggests there could be serious damage.