LAKELAND, Fla. (FOX 13) - They fly straight into one of the most destructive forces in nature. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Hunters are collecting important data about Dorian, running two daily missions through the powerful storm.
The group is working around the clock, gathering critical information used to forecast Dorian's path and strength.
"NOAA sends three airplanes into the storm two-times per day, plus our G-4 doing the outside," explained Flight Director, Jack Parrish. "Today's mission should go about seven hours and in that time we will go through the center of Dorian four different times."
A second team of Hurricane Hunters, the Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, is also flying missions in WC-130s, based out of Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.
The NOAA Hurricane Hunter fleet, based out of Lakeland, includes two P-3 turboprop planes and a Gulfstream IV jet. The P-3's, nicknamed Kermit and Miss Piggy, fly through the devastating storm and into the eye.
"We see nothing but terrible rain, a lot of lightning, very turbulent seas down below us, and then when we break through the eyewall we get into that place where it's just beautiful blue sky," Parrish said.
The recon flights allow the crew of scientists, engineers and meteorologists to measure the hurricane from the inside.
About 20 to 30 dropsondes are launched each mission. The devices parachute through the storm measuring wind speed and direction, pressure, temperature, and humidity.
The P-3's are also equipped with Doppler radar in the tail and lower fuselage that scans the storm vertically and horizontally
"It's essentially two-dimensional CT-scans, but when you put them together you get a three-dimensional view of not only the precipitation in Dorian but also the wind field," said Parrish. "So very, very accurate mapping of the winds of Dorian."
Those measurements provide a detailed look at the structure of the storm and its intensity. They are instantly transmitted to the National Hurricane Center to use in forecast models.
PHOTOS: Aboard a Hurricane Hunter flight
NOAA plans to continue flying through Dorian twice a day until there is no longer a threat.