Flying into the eye of Hurricane Irene

Here and Now

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Hurricane Irene focused her aim on the Eastern Seaboard Friday. The massive storm is threatening 65 million people from North Carolina to New England.

And Paul Flaherty has already seen Irene up close.

Flaherty is a flight meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, and he recently flew with a crew of 16 others into the eye of Hurricane Irene.

“Our plane is just a speck in that storm,” he told Here and Now’s Sacha Pfeiffer.

“Sometimes it dawns on me it might be a little crazy what we’re doing but I’ve seen the number of people we’ve been able to evacuate in storms so I know we’re doing it for the right reasons,” he said.

Flaherty’s team gathers information that’s used to determine weather patterns and the need for evacuations. They learn about the wind from Doppler radar measured on a device that sits on the tail of the plane.

Hurricane Irene, a Category 2 storm as of Friday morning, could regroup in open waters into Category 3 strength when it hits the East Coast this weekend. According to the FEMA website, winds from a Category 3 hurricane could cause “devastating damage.”

President Obama has declared an emergency for North Carolina. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has done the same for his state.

In New Jersey, tens of thousands of vacationers and residents have begun what’s described as the state’s biggest evacuation ever.

> Read more on the Here and Now website.

> Get hurricane preparedness information on FEMA website.

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