This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," August 29, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: While everyone else was doing his best to get out of the storm's deadly path, a few brave hurricane hunters (search) were intentionally flying right into the hurricane.
Joining us live on the phone is Lt. Col. Roy Deatherage of the Air Force Reserve hurricane-hunters. He just flew through the center of Hurricane Katrina (search).
Welcome, sir. And tell me, what was it like flying through Katrina?
LT. COL. ROY DEATHERAGE, HURRICANE HUNTER: Hi, Greta. It's exciting as always. We had a strong Category 4 hurricane this morning. We flew through it for about six hours, starting around 6 a.m.
And luckily, the storm was weakening a little bit as it went inland. We had the pressure come up about 12 millibars during our flight. The winds were about 100 miles per hour on the west side of the storm, is what we encountered at our flight level of 10,000 feet. And we had about 145 miles an hour on the east side.
So the east side of the storm was certainly the stronger part of the storm this morning.
VAN SUSTEREN: What is the purpose of flying into the hurricanes? Is it to measure the wind speeds, sort of, you know, record for science and to try to figure out things that might help us in the future?
DEATHERAGE: Well, no, it's really for real-time civil defense. The main purpose is to determine exactly what the intensity of the storm is. And we do that mainly by measuring the pressure in the storm, the sea-level pressure in the eye, and also by measuring what the max winds are and where those max winds are located.
And the National Hurricane Center of Miami, Florida, takes our real- time data that we send them by satellite from the aircraft and feed those into their computer models, in conjunction with ship reports and buoys. And they've got the most advanced computers around, running computer models, and taking all of this information, and making tracks and predictions with it.
So our purpose for being there is to give actual, specific data on what the hurricane is doing right then and exactly where it is, so they can make better forecasts to tell people to be able to get out of the way, where they need to get out of the way, and to make accurate forecasts so that they don't needlessly evacuate areas that aren't going to need to be evacuated.
VAN SUSTEREN: Sir, I never hear of any hurricane- hunters going down in airplanes luckily, but it seems extraordinarily dangerous to do this. Is it?
DEATHERAGE: No, I really don't think it is. I'll tell you, it's much more dangerous to be on the ground. I would much rather be flying in a Cat-5 hurricane than to have been in my house today in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Myself, and a lot of the people I fly with, own property. We live in Biloxi, Gulfport, Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and we're very concerned about our homes and our friends and things back there. But nobody in the plane was concerned about the flight. We're more concerned about what happened on the ground.
VAN SUSTEREN: How about the plane? Is it a particular type of aircraft you take through those hurricanes? Are they stronger than others?
DEATHERAGE: It's a C-130, which is a very strong cargo plane, four- engine turbo-prop cargo plane. And it's not reinforced in any way.
The standard mission of the plane is a very rigorous mission. And actually, flying through hurricanes is probably not as strenuous on it as it is to do assault landings, those kind of things, that the C-130 is designed to do. So the modifications to the airplane are really to add the weather sensors and weather gear. There's no modification to make it any stronger.
VAN SUSTEREN: Quite a ride?
DEATHERAGE: Today, it wasn't too bad. Not really that bad at all. Once it went inland and we flew over land a little bit, we had some sustained moderate turbulence. But overall, probably 80 percent of the flight was really pretty comfortable.
VAN SUSTEREN: What's the most important thing you learned today? Is it the speed of the east side of the hurricane, the 145 miles per hour?
DEATHERAGE: I think all of it's important. The pressure coming up, the fact that it was weakening, probably the most important thing today was the Hurricane Center was looking for it to turn. It was going northwest, and then north.
And when was it going to make the turn? And therefore, what areas of the shore were going to get the hardest hit? And it did, thankfully for New Orleans, make a little bit of an east turn, just as it was heading to New Orleans. And it sounds like they maybe fared a little better than they might have had it stayed a little more on a northwest track.
VAN SUSTEREN: Colonel, thank you.
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