TAMPA - We didn't get to fly "into the storm," since we were in a jet... but we did have 4,000 miles to cover investigating Isaac. With the older, slower, P-3 plane in Hangar five at MacDill, my crew got the briefing for our flight.
"You can see the convection is in much the same place as yesterday," explained flight meteorologist Nick Morgan, pointing to an infrared satellite shot. It was one of many visual aids he presented to the crew of nine -- and me -- as we prepared to board "Gonzo," the Gulfstream IV jet on a journey just over and all around the tropical trouble that we've been watching all week.
One of those on board with me, Barry Damiano, a 25-year veteran of these Hurricane Hunter flights, who insists this mission is just like any other, even though his home base -- and his home in Carrollwood could be in Isaac's way.
"We know that when we're going out and flying, someone's going to be affected," he said. "Whether it's Florida, somewhere else in the United States or in Central America."
Leaving Tampa behind at 2 pm, we make a bee-line for the Bahamas, and the first leg of our peripheral path that will last eight hours. It is not a quick flight, but then again, their mission is to gather data -- lots of it.
While pilots up front hit pre-selected way points at 45 thousand feet, technicians in the rear section deploy dropsondes, which radio back real-time atmospheric data as they fall.
Indeed every one of the ten people crammed into this jet have their hands full -- staying busy practically the whole flight.
"It's a pretty good workload," explained Damiano. "Especially for the amount of drops that we are going to be deploying, which is 31."
"Yeah, in addition to the dropsondes, we have to monitor all sorts of conditions and the flight level," added Mr. Morgan, who sat across the aisle from Barry for the whole flight.
All that data. The temperature, dew point, winds, and pressure get fed into computer data bases here and on the ground to update and verify Isaac's intensity.
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