HOUSTON - Hurricane hunters took off from Ellington Field in Southeast Houston Monday morning to fly into Tropical Storm Isaac.
It was the first of several flights leaving Ellington Field and heading into the Gulf of Mexico to get a better look and handle on Isaac.
Monday's flight into the storm will take about 10 to 12 hours.
Hurricane hunters will drop two types of instruments out of the reconnaissance plane to record and measure the atmosphere and Gulf waters.
Crews who were evacuated from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Tropical Storm, soon to be Hurricane, Isaac is expected to wreak havoc.
About five crews, along with six C-130 J airplanes, were evacuated.
"When we go up, we're looking for maximum speeds at the surface, as well as the wind speeds of whatever flight level we might be flying at, whether it's 10,000 or 5,000 feet. We're also trying to find the exact center of the storms," Hurricane Hunter Captain Kyle Larson said.
This will be Capt. Larson's 16th trip into the eye of a storm. He says every trip is different and hurricane hunters must prepare for the unexpected. The information they gather on wind speed, intensity and movement will help forecasters predict where Isaac will make landfall.
"Ultimately, it's about safety and making sure the people who need to be warned are warned and not evacuate more people than absolutely necessary. Keeping the roads free for people who actually have to leave town," Capt. Larson said.
Crews will be in the sky a total of 12 hours. While experienced at this type of mission, the hurricane hunters try to fly above hail and lightning to guarantee the safety of the plane and her crew.
"You don't really -- I wouldn't say -- get scared, but you're always concentrating on your mission. Making sure you're doing it safely," Capt. Larson said.
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