Tropical Storm Erika tracked by hurricane hunters
TAMPA (FOX 13) - Erika continues to be a hard-to-pin-down, disorganized storm that could still impact the state of Florida, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist Jack Parrish, during a surveillance flight over the top of the storm.
"The sky above us is a very deep blue because we are so high," he said. "We are not finding very much sheer, but we are finding very dry air."
On Thursday afternoon, he was one of eight workers in a Gulfstream jet that was carrying pilots, scientists and technicians on a seven hour flight, sent to observe Erika.
They drop up to thirty probes per flight through the storm that take measurements of air pressure, wind speed and temperature before they fall into the ocean.
"Right now we are seeing nothing but disruptive factors that will probably keep the storm disorganized and weak, for about the next two days."
Fox 13 meteorologist Mike Bennett says three days from potential landfall, the spaghetti models can be off by an average of 180 miles.
"We don't really see any models at this point taking a strong storm into Florida itself," said Bennett. "If we didn't have those guys flying up there, we would be blind on this system except for looking at satellites."
The governor was briefed by a team of meteorologists and emergency responders.
"The biggest thing we can say right now is we have been very fortunate for a long time," said Gov. Rick Scott. "But we have got to get prepared."
The Tampa - MacDill based crews have done five flights into Erika so far, and expect another ten.
"We all have families back in Tampa and we have relatives all over Florida" said Parrish. "The forecast of this storm is just as important to us as it is to everyone else."
On the seven hour flights, NOAA teams go 3,500 miles, which is far enough to get from Florida to Alaska.
Parrish has observed more than 80 storms.