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Dennis Ross gets firsthand look at eye of Hurricane Irma

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

After returning from an overnight flight on the Hurricane Hunter WP-3 aircraft to inspect Hurricane Irma, Dennis Ross can attest the coming storm could do “serious damage” to Florida and the Southeast.

“We Floridians are resilient and knowledgeable when it comes to hurricanes and other natural disasters, but we cannot let our guard down,” the Polk County-area Congressman said in a statement early Friday afternoon. “We must remain vigilant and prepared. I cannot stress enough the importance of staying informed, obeying evacuation orders, and preparing our homes and families for this hurricane. Protecting lives is our first and only focus at this moment.”

While weather satellites allow meteorologists to track hurricanes’ paths, crewed missions help collect data on a storm’s temperature, wind speeds and directions, and barometric pressure.

This data is collected by deploying tools called dropsondes, cylindrically shaped instruments that transmit information as they fall through the hurricane and into the ocean. According to data posted on the NOAA Hurricane Research Division website, around 30 dropsondes have been deployed by each flight to survey Irma.

Ross said he took the flight on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Hunter so he could better understand the process behind bringing the nation accurate and up-to-date weather forecasts when they need it most.

“On the flight, I witnessed firsthand the selflessness and dedication of the NOAA employees who risk their lives to gather this life-saving information,” he said. “With Hurricane Irma barreling its way toward our shores and additional weather events forming in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, it is clear that their work is absolutely critical and deserving of our full support. I cannot thank them enough for never hesitating to respond to these dangerous events. My colleagues and I will fight to ensure NOAA has the necessary tools and resources to continue conducting this important and necessary work, as well as provide our great state and its people with the resources and manpower needed for preparedness and recovery.”

The National Hurricane Center is also watching two more hurricanes that now form a trio with Irma: Katia in the southern Gulf of Mexico and Jose in the mid-Atlantic.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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