Before Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday, hurricane hunters headed out into the storm.
Engineer Nick Underwood, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has been a part of these missions for more than six years, starting with Hurricane Matthew back in 2016. Since then, he’s flown in nearly 2 dozen hurricanes, and he says this was the toughest ride he’s ever experienced.
Underwood, who was back in Texas after the early morning ride, spoke to NBC10 Boston Wednesday night and shared more about what was "quite the ride" through "severe and sustained turbulence," noting it was tough to find their way out of the eye.
“It was surprising to find such a violent part of the storm on the western side, which tends to be not as violent part of the storm. And really, it was just a lot of turbulence in a lateral direction. Normally we get the up and down stuff, but getting tossed side to side is a lot more unnerving than you would expect," he said. "Something that sort of added to the environment was the amount of lightning, both in the eyewall, and then once we got into the eye even. I've never seen so much lightning inside of a hurricane."
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Underwood shared video to Twitter that showed the turbulence, writing, "I have never seen the bunks come out like that. There was coffee everywhere."
Underwood said they knew what they were getting into with Ian, but even with the warnings from other crews, it was still "quite the experience." When asked how it ranks to the others he's flown through, Underwood ranked this as the worst storm yet.
"It's my number one," he said.
While there's a little apprehension at first, Underwood noted that everyone on board, from meteorologists to flight directors, is the best at what they do and that's very reassuring.
Flights like these help hurricane hunters collect critical data that assist in mapping out the path of a storm.
"It's vital that we get up in the air and actually get that data in real time in the storm because the more accurate, the more precise that data is, the better that forecast is going to be for the folks on the ground," he shared.