NOAA hurricane hunter says Ian was his worst flight so far

Hurricane Ian

(NewsNation) — Hurricane Ian hit Florida’s southwest coast Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 155 mph, just two mph short of becoming a Category 5 storm. The storm eventually downgraded to a tropical storm early Thursday morning as it headed toward the northeast.

But while government officials urged residents to evacuate and take shelter, a few hurricane hunters risked their lives to keep everybody else safe and informed of the storm’s progress.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aerospace engineer Nick Underwood was a part of that team that flew right into Hurricane Ian.

“I’ve been chasing storms with NOAA for the last six years, and that pass through Hurricane Ian was the worst one that I’ve been on so far,” Underwood said.

He explained that the plane experienced a lot of turbulence, both up and down and in a lateral direction — which is more unsettling for those aboard the plane. Plus, he said there was a lot of lightning in both the eyewall of the storm and the eye of the storm.

The crew flew at 8,000 feet aboard the aircraft Kermit, which was also the same plane that flew during Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Storm chaser Stephen Jones, who spoke with NewsNation on Wednesday before the storm, rejoined “Morning in America” on Thursday, saying it was one of the most intense hurricane experiences he’s had since he started chasing storms.

“I can say it’s probably up there on one of my most intense moments of a hurricane chase. We were riding it out — pretty much we had to set ourselves up on top of a bridge, to where we can stay safe away from the storm surge (as it’s) coming in,” Jones said.

Jones followed the storm from the ground, monitoring conditions from the eye of the hurricane. Jones and his team will continue assessing damages in Punta Gorda before heading down to Fort Myers later in the day.

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