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A massive grouper steals a four-foot shark from a fisherman's line off the coast of Florida.More >>
HONOLULU (KHNL)- While Felicia may be weakening, the tropical cyclone still holds vital atmospheric data that shows how it may impact Hawaii.
The "Hurricane Hunters last came when Hurricane Flossie hit our islands two years ago. Now they're back for Felicia.
"Brakes? Check," said a crew member.
Aboard an Air Force C-130 aircraft is where the predator becomes the prey. With the tropical cyclone approaching the islands, the "Hurricane Hunters" get ready to go face to face with Felicia and fly directly in.
Eight crew members of a Biloxi, Mississippi based squadron are traveling towards her, 900-miles east of the Big Island with few comforts.
"Sometimes we get jerked around, sometimes it's smooth it all depends," said Cpt.Marc McAllister.
Aside from slight turbulence the ride was suprisingly smooth, as weather officers communicate with the National Hurricane Center.
"We collect the data, make sure it's analyzed correctly and send it out," said Lt. Col. Tobi Baker.
Weather instruments are also dropped into the depths of the tropical cyclone, gathering crucial atmospheric information.
"The parachute comes out of the bottom, it will fall 2500ft per minute and every half second it will send data back to our computer," said Master Sgt. Rick Cumbo.
"The winds are hovering around pretty well," said a crew member.
Nearly four hours into flight, we approach Felicia's eye.
"Looks like an open eye from this end," said a crew member.
After four trips inside the eye, each shows similar conditions.
"It's just heavy rain," said Cpt. McAllister.
Felicia's climate inside is calm and anti-climactic.
"It wasn't too bad, the storm is dissipating a little bit," said a crew member.
But this mission is far from failure.
"Even though it may be a small storm and even if they don't anticipate it will hit anything, they still want us to get there and check it out to populate their models and make more accurate forecasts," said Cpt. McAllister.
We pass over Haleakala, as Honolulu appears in the distance. The true trophy for these hunters, is Hawaii's ability to be alert and prepared. The state says "aloha" to Felicia in just days.
This trip is their fourth mission. The information the "Hurricane Hunters" gathered is expected to increase the accuracy of hurricane and severe weather forecasts by up to 30%.