OTR Interviews

Inside a Hurricane Hunter's Flight Inside Irene

Hurricane hunter details what it was like to fly inside monstrous storm

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 26, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Lieutenant Colonel Jon Talbot joins us on the phone. He's a

meteorologist for the hurricane hunters. But that's not all. Last night, he flew through Hurricane Irene. Yes, he flew through Hurricane Irene. Good evening, sir.

LT. COL. JON TALBOT, AERIAL RECONNAISSANCE WEATHER OFC (Via Telephone): Good evening, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, since you flew through the hurricane, tell me why you did it and what you learned.

TALBOT: Well, we do this to keep the National Hurricane Center abreast of what's going on right now in the hurricane and to tell them exactly where that storm is and exactly how far out the winds extend. And

of course, we know this is a very large storm.

We had a very good flight last night. And one of the biggest things that we've seen last night and even today is the storm has maintained intensity. It hasn't really strengthened all that much, but it also hasn't weakened all that much. And that's the reason why we're out there, to

catch these things when they do change intensity.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's it like to fly through a hurricane, Colonel?

TALBOT: It's actually a very interesting flight. Of course, the storm is surrounded by rain bands. So the aircraft is at 10,000 feet, and as we fly through the storm, we of course go through those rain bands and

then enter the center, the middle of the hurricane, where we drop instruments to measure things like the pressure on the surface. And we go out the other side.

And of course, we run into turbulence every once in a while. But we do this very carefully, very safely. And we have a lot of experienced crews that really have a lot of experience out there. And so that's kind

of what it's like flying through a storm. And it's typically a long mission. It lasts about 12 hours, for the most part.

VAN SUSTEREN: So I mean, I take it that -- I mean, I know your planes can really take a beating. But I'm curious. Is it -- you know, we -- you know, many of us have thrown through turbulence. I take it this is turbulence extreme.

TALBOT: Well, it can be. And each one of these storms has a mind of its own, and it changes hour by hour. So in the big scheme of things, we really don't know what we're going to run into until we actually get out there. And luckily, yesterday's flight was fairly routine, I guess, by our standards. And you know, we ran into some turbulence. We ran into a lot of rain. And at the time we were out there, the eye wasn't very well formed, but as we know with other storms, that can change pretty rapidly.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this a large hurricane by size? I know the -- it's a powerful one, but how about size?

TALBOT: Yes, that's a good point. We had winds near hurricane force almost 100 miles away from the center. So even though the storm is still well offshore, those winds are now starting to reach, you know, the Carolina coastline, at least the tropical storm-force winds. So the folks that are in those areas are going to be experiencing really strong winds for a long time. So this is a very large hurricane. It may not be the most powerful hurricane that we've ever seen, but it definitely has a very huge wind field.

VAN SUSTEREN: Colonel, during Katrina, which we're all intimately familiar, is that one of the reasons that that was -- had such devastation is because it didn't move particularly fast. It just kept pounding the Gulf Coast. Is this hurricane moving quickly, or does it have that same sort of phenomenon where it's just not -- it's just going to be -- it's a slow-moving hurricane?

TALBOT: Well, yes. The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center has the storm moving about 16 miles an hour. So it's not moving awfully fast. And as it gets up beyond North Carolina, the speed really isn't going to increase, like we typically see with some of these storms. So the forecast is for it to continue moving around that speed. So those winds in the areas that they affect are going to be lasting for quite a while.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there anything peculiar about this hurricane as compared to any other hurricane in your travel through this and you're measuring and you're testing?

TALBOT: Well, the biggest thing, like I mentioned, was the winds extend way out from the storm a long ways. And we saw that with Hurricane Katrina just prior to landfall also, where hurricane-force winds extended nearly 100 miles along the coastline. So most of the strongest winds with this storm, with the aircraft that are out there at the moment, are typically -- they're on the north and the east side of the storm. So if the storm is going to go to your west, you're going to be in those strong winds for a long time. So I would say that's the biggest characteristic with this hurricane. It has a very, very large wind field.

VAN SUSTEREN: Colonel, thank you, sir.

TALBOT: Thank you very much, Greta.