NOAA Hurricane Hunter crews gather crucial data from Hurricane Irma

LAKELAND, Fla (WFLA) – While most people board planes to escape major storms, a group of pilots, scientists and meteorologists do the exact opposite.

They work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Hurricane Hunter flight program. The team has been working 12 hour shifts working to analyze and aid forecasters in predicting Hurricane Irma’s next move.

Commander Scott Price returned from an eight plus hour flight on Friday night. He describes Irma as a massive storm.

“One of the most intense hurricanes I’ve ever flown in,” said Price. “It’s got an incredible amount of energy, extreme turbulence, everything you would imagine flying through a hurricane would be like. ”

The crews use equipment on board to analyze the hurricane and also use GPS devices called “dropsondes” to gather data. The devices record information such as air temperature and pressure, wind speed and direction and humidity. Those are key elements in determining the storm’s strength and hopefully narrow down its track.

Price explains the information gathered by satellites simply is not as accurate.

“The best data about a storm is in the storm itself,” said Price. “You can only tell so much from satellites, so we need to get into the environment, to collect the data on it.”

One of the team’s aircraft flies right through they eye of the storm, the other flies above and around it. Commander Scott Price has a passion for what he does.

“What we do is contrary to everything pilots are trained to do….Ourselves included,” said Price. “But, it is extremely rewarding. The service we are providing.”

He believes the data collected can and does make a difference and truly does save lives.

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