Chasing Floyd

It's Science, But It's Exciting Too

While everyone else in Floyd's path is heading for safe ground, meteorologist Josh Wurman and his research team are going straight into the danger zone. CBS News Corresondent Sharyl Attkisson reports from ground zero.

To get to Florida, Josh came 2,000 miles, all the way from Oklahoma. He is about to drive a thousand more, through Georgia and into the Carolinas, to get smack dab in the middle of some very nasty winds.

Josh is doing this for science. Driving around in his "Doppler On Wheels" radar truck, he is searching for "wind streaks," a phenomenon he recently discovered. He knows that they occur in hurricanes over land but he wants to find out if they also form inside hurricanes over water.

Wind streaks, Wurman says, play a key role in making hurricanes so destructive.

Floyd is the biggest hurricane Josh has ever chased, which creates daunting logistical problems. Because everyone has evacuated, Josh's team can't find a pump, and is running out of gas. Finally they find gas. If only they could find food.

But they have to worry about the storm first. As the truck splashes through puddles and makes its way through roadblocks, they track Floyd. It consumes them, and they lose track of time. As it gets dark, they realize that they should have started thinking earlier about finding a place to stop.

For Wurman, the trick is to find a spot where he can have his closest encounter possible with Floyd's fiercest winds -- without getting hurt, and without destroying his truck.

Just north of Wilmington, North Carolina, they find their spot. They found a good one: By midnight Wednesday, Floyd was hitting them hard, with winds as high as 123 mph.

Inside the truck, Josh is more excited by the images on the screen, evidence of the "wind streaks" he is looking for. It is, he says, a scientific bonanza, the pay-off for his two-day marathon hurricane chase.

The information he has gathered, he says, is a small but important piece of the hurricane puzzle. Now, with the storm receding, he is anxious to get back home to Oklahoma. He is tired. "[Floyd] was the hardest one to chase, but also the most rewarding," he says.

But there's another problem. With roads blocked by trees and other debris or completely washed out, driving is difficult. While the chase may be over, escape is another matter.


Produced By David Kohn;
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

More From 48 Hours