Storm chasers caught terrifying footage from inside the eye of Hurricane Lee on Friday (Sept. 8).
The footage of the hurricane shows lightning crackling throughout the storm as its jet-black eye looms ominously overhead. The video was shot by the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron in Biloxi, Mississippi, known as the “Hurricane Hunters.” The video was published by the U.S. Department of Defense on Friday (song “Broken Glass” by Logan Spaleta added by Space.com).
Hurricane Lee is currently a Category 4 storm, meaning it features sustained winds of 130 to 156 mph (209 to 251 kph). As of Friday, the storm is in the Atlantic Ocean east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and is expected to move north over the next several days. It’s not yet known if the storm will have any impacts on the U.S. Atlantic coast, according to a statement from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Hurricane Center.
The rare look directly into the eye of a hurricane was made possible by the Hurricane Hunters. According to an Air Force fact sheet, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is the “only operational unit in the world flying weather reconnaissance on a routine basis.”
To get these incredible views from the inside of storms, the squadron flies specialized WC-130J Hercules aircraft. These are equipped with specialized meteorological sensors including dropsondes, instruments that are dropped directly through storms in order to create a top-to-bottom profile of wind, temperature and pressure. The aircraft can stay in the air for nearly 18 hours, allowing crews to collect weather data over extended periods.
Lee is the fourth hurricane and 13th named storm overall of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. In late August 2023, Hurricane Idalia made landfall along the United States’ Gulf Coast, causing widespread damage throughout Northern Florida and Georgia’s southwest. At least seven fatalities were attributed to the storm.