Members of the Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron have been tracking Hurricane Harvey for more than a week ― frequently venturing inside the eye of the storm to gather critical data.
The team known as the “Hurricane Hunters” have already made 10 flights into the storm and passed through its core dozens of times to give the National Hurricane Center information including temperature, wind speed and direction, dew point and pressure. The NHC uses these updates to determine the intensity of the storm and to predict its movements.
“The data we collect is essential to the [NHC] right now because the capabilities of satellites and drones are just not there yet,” said Air Force Maj. Kimberly Spusta, a 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer. “To go into the center of the storm to get that data is critical, so the NHC can have the most accurate forecasts possible.”
Take a look at the video below to see the storm from the Hurricane Hunters’ perspective during a flight on Friday, before it touched down in Texas:
Hurricane Harvey, now downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 1 storm, is expected to bring up to 40 inches of rain to parts of Texas. It still bears the potential to cause “catastrophic and life-threatening flooding,” meteorologists have warned.
The hurricane has already caused extensive damage in different areas of the state, and has left hundreds of thousands of people without power. Localized tornado watches and flash flood warnings remain in effect.
President Donald Trump signed a presidential disaster declaration ahead of Harvey’s landfall at the request of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).