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Pilot describes flying through Florence

Hurricane Florence has been upgraded Category 4, prompting numerous warnings from state officials to not underestimate the threat the storm poses. NOAA pilot Justin Kibbey discusses his flights through the hurricane.

Posted: Sep 12, 2018 6:06 AM
Updated: Sep 12, 2018 6:08 AM

As Paul Flaherty flew over Hurricane Florence, he didn't like what he was seeing.

The storm was getting stronger and stronger. It grew from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane in 72 hours.

Flaherty, flight director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Hunters, saw the eye wall forming. He felt a sick feeling in his gut.

"It just kind of hits you in the gut when you see this thing strengthening and know that the forecast is calling for it to come in as such a strong storm," he told CNN on Monday after his third flight. "We don't like what we're seeing. I don't think you guys like much what you're seeing on the ground either."

Hurricane hunters have monitored the storm from above over the last few days as it churns toward the southern East Coast of the United States. Hurricane Florence neared Category 5 strength on Monday, forcing evacuations in coastal areas in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

NOAA Hurricane Hunter Pilot Cmdr. Justin Kibbey also recalled the distinctness of the storm's eye. It stretched 10 to 12 miles, he said.

"This storm has really got its act together and it's just a heck of a storm out there," Kibbey told CNN.

Kibbey described "moments of intensity, followed by some lulls" as he flew in and out of the storm.

The 2017 hurricane season kept hurricane hunters like Kibbey busy. Two storms, Harvey and Irma, killed more than 140 people in the southeast and caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damages. Puerto Rico's government raised Hurricane Maria's official death toll to 2,975 last month after maintaining for months that 64 people had died.

"It's on par with the storms we flew last year, like Maria and Irma," Kibbey said.

Flaherty, who is also a meteorologist, said the storm is "life-threatening."

"We want to make sure that we get the best data going to the National Hurricane Center ... and to emergency managers and to the media so we can get people out of the way," Flaherty said.

More than a million people in the southeast United States faced mandatory evacuation orders. Flaherty urged people to heed those warnings.

"Every time there's going to be those people who decide to stay," he said. "We read about their names and their stories, and we want to try to know why they didn't go."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 67857

Reported Deaths: 2975
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion14710719
Lake7037269
Elkhart458276
Allen3611157
St. Joseph311479
Hamilton2489104
Cass17509
Hendricks1742105
Vanderburgh170012
Johnson1648118
Porter117439
Tippecanoe109411
Clark107545
Madison84265
LaPorte82929
Kosciusko81612
Howard80464
Marshall74222
Bartholomew73847
Floyd68444
Monroe68430
Noble63528
Delaware63352
Boone63246
Dubois62412
Hancock61637
Jackson5514
LaGrange54210
Shelby50926
Warrick50230
Grant49629
Vigo46810
Dearborn46128
Morgan41832
Henry36118
Clinton3523
White34510
Montgomery33821
Lawrence32627
Wayne3159
Decatur31332
Harrison28922
Miami2582
Scott24710
Daviess24319
Greene23834
DeKalb2214
Putnam2218
Jennings20712
Franklin20510
Jasper2032
Steuben1993
Gibson1984
Ripley1887
Perry17112
Starke1647
Orange16324
Wabash1583
Posey1570
Fayette1547
Jefferson1492
Whitley1486
Fulton1442
Carroll1422
Wells1312
Knox1290
Huntington1183
Washington1151
Spencer1133
Newton10910
Tipton1065
Randolph1024
Clay975
Jay820
Adams812
Rush794
Owen781
Sullivan751
Pulaski711
Brown701
Fountain632
Benton600
Blackford532
Ohio504
Parke451
Pike450
Switzerland430
Crawford420
Martin420
Vermillion380
Union320
Warren191
Unassigned0200

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 93031

Reported Deaths: 3529
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17107514
Cuyahoga12646477
Hamilton9110247
Lucas4852318
Montgomery402477
Summit3248217
Marion287544
Butler268359
Mahoning2393253
Pickaway235242
Stark1679132
Lorain162076
Warren160035
Columbiana157060
Trumbull1421103
Fairfield123825
Delaware119418
Licking111642
Clark107613
Lake103435
Wood91058
Clermont83510
Medina83133
Miami76837
Tuscarawas74613
Portage71160
Allen64642
Greene61911
Belmont58926
Ashtabula53845
Richland53610
Geauga52843
Mercer52213
Erie51627
Wayne49258
Ross3874
Huron3714
Ottawa35225
Athens3441
Madison32910
Sandusky32917
Holmes3206
Darke31627
Hancock3152
Lawrence2160
Union2141
Auglaize2135
Jefferson2043
Washington19722
Putnam19317
Coshocton1856
Scioto1851
Muskingum1781
Knox1652
Crawford1645
Preble1642
Morrow1582
Shelby1574
Seneca1533
Hardin15012
Clinton1466
Fulton1391
Ashland1303
Defiance1294
Highland1271
Williams1233
Logan1201
Wyandot1195
Brown1121
Guernsey1106
Hocking1089
Carroll1075
Henry1061
Champaign1051
Perry1052
Fayette940
Monroe9018
Van Wert681
Pike660
Jackson650
Paulding590
Gallia571
Adams532
Vinton302
Meigs240
Morgan200
Harrison191
Noble160
Unassigned00
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