Below is a journal from 10News reporter Beau Zimmer, who will document Hurricane Harvey with the NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter team.
Harvey is on a collision course with the Texas coastline and forecast to intensify to a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall.
Myself and 10News photojournalist Mitchell Wallace will document Friday morning’s critical mission, which will give meteorologists important data to help forecast last minute changes to Harvey’s intensity at landfall and any variations in the storm’s track.
Mitchell and I were asked to be at the flight hanger by 7:45 a.m. Friday to get ready for our pre-flight briefing and safety instructions.
The team previously flew out of MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, but now has a brand new larger hanger at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Polk County.
While the flight crew includes some of the nation’s most experienced and highly trained pilots, we’re still flying into a hurricane and there is always risk. For that reason, we were asked to sign a number of release forms and provide emergency contact information for relatives and news managers back at the station.
The mission will be aboard one of NOAA's Lockheed WP-3D Orion aircraft, nicknamed "Kermit". Commander Justin Kibbey will be the pilot in command of the flight, and we’re told he has plenty experience flying airplanes into major storms.
My dear friend and former Chief Meteorologist, the late Dick Fletcher, flew numerous missions into storms with the Hurricane Hunters. I always remember him telling me how the flights were so bumpy, you’d literally have to sit on your hands to keep track of them.
Lucky for me, I don’t easily get air sick. While photographer Mitchell Wallace has previously flown with the Hurricane Hunters, this will be my first flight into a storm.
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