Watch this NOAA plane take on Hurricane Ian

As millions of Florida residents braced for Hurricane Ian as it swept toward the state this Wednesday, a team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) personnel jumped on a plane and headed straight for it.

Dramatic video footage (below) captured by NOAA engineer Nick Underwood shows the plane rocking and rolling in severe turbulence as it passed through the hurricane, with a particularly nasty bump occurring at 2:06.

The rough ride will be fully expected – all you needed was nerves of steel and a rock hard stomach to handle it. Still, the magnitude of the turbulence seemed somewhat of a surprise to Underwood.

“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 the bunk beds come out like this. There was coffee everywhere. I’ve never felt such a sideways movement.”

Aftermath of the galley.

— 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 meteorological station — collected data to help forecasters make accurate predictions. The data will also be handed over to researchers who want to learn more about storm processes, which in turn could help improve forecasting models.

The plane Underwood and his team flew aboard was one of NOAA’s two Lockheed WP-3D Orion planes, nicknamed Kermit.

Scientists on these missions deploy GPS dropwind probes — parachute-equipped scientific instruments — that are dropped from the plane as it flies through the hurricane.

“These instruments continuously transmit measurements of pressure, humidity, temperature and wind direction and speed as they fall toward the sea, giving them a detailed picture of the storm’s structure and its intensity,” explains the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations on its website. “The tail Doppler radar and lower-hull radar systems, meanwhile, scan the storm vertically and horizontally, allowing scientists and forecasters to view the storm in real time. The P-3s can also use probes called bathythermographs, which measure the temperature of the sea.

“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 instructed to do so by the NOAA National Weather Service’s National Hurricane 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 some incredible satellite images showing widespread lightning storms in Hurricane Ian.

As #HurricaneIan churning near Cuba, #GOESeast can see his clear eye as well as #lightning flashing around the storm.#ian is an important category 3 #Hurricane which continues to strengthen in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.


— NOAA satellites (@NOAASatellites) September 27, 2022

Hurricane Ian left Cuba without power after hitting the island on Tuesday. At the time of writing, it’s too early to know the full extent of Hurricane Ian’s impact on Florida, but the storm’s severity suggests there could be serious damage.

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