Hurricane Hunters on Oahu

Lt. Col. John Fox
Lt. Col. John Fox

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE (KHNL) -- Every few hours, we get updated forecasts on Hurricane Flossie's movement and strength. A lot of that information comes from hurricane hunters, who literally fly into the eye of the storm.

"Hurricane Hunters" from Biloxi, Mississippi, arrived at Hickam Sunday afternoon. They're here to gather data from Hurricane Flossie. They've already made three separate 11-hour flights into the storm.

This C-130, one of four on Oahu now, is getting ready to fly into Hurricane Flossie. It's navigator U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Fox's job to get in and out of the storm as smoothly as possible.

"My analogy, its kind of like running a football, you're going to get hit, you just don't want to get hit too hard, said Fox.

He's been doing this for 11 years and has flown on more than 100 storm flights, including 3 to the "eye" of Hurricane Katrina.

"I knew it was going to be very very bad, but when we got home and saw what had happened, I mean no one can predict that kind of destruction."

Based on his own experience inside each, Fox says Hurricane Katrina was much bigger than Flossie.

"It's like comparing Urkle and Mike Tyson in my opinion. I mean that's just what i saw yesterday, that could change."

Inside the storm, they measure wind speed, temperature, humidity, and pressure; and transmit the information back to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

A new piece of equipment -- a Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer, called "SMURF" now allows them to gather even more.

"The old system was my eyes, so if I had clouds I couldn't see the surface and tell you what the winds were," said Lt. Col Kurt Nelson.

"SMURF" allows them to see through the clouds, and get a more accurate picture of the sea surface temperature. A few degrees can make a huge difference in the size of the storm.

"Because its energy, the more heat down there the more energy and it literally feeds the storm," said Fox.

The Hurricane Hunters say they will fly into the storm every six hours, until "Flossie" passes our island chain.