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Meet the hurricane hunters who fly into Dorian's eye

The hurricane hunters who fly into Dorian
The hurricane hunters who fly into Dorian 03:13

Much of what we know about Hurricane Dorian comes from hurricane hunters who track storms from the sky. While flying into the eye of a hurricane may seem to be a terrifying thrill, it's vital for tracking Dorian's direction and speed.

The U.S. Air Force planes that fly into hurricanes are typically used for dropping off troops and supplies in war zones. But they've been modified to maneuver through the storm for up to 14 hours.

One of those planes is flown by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. The target of their mission, Hurricane Dorian, threatens 25 million people in its projected path. About 10,000 feet in the sky, chief pilot Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Ragusa and his crew are collecting data to track the storm's impact.

"Knowing what it's doing now is gonna be the information that they need to know," Ragusa told CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett, who joined the squadron on their flight.  

The crew drops GPS sensors while flying directly through the eye to the hurricane's edge and back again as many as four times. They gather information about the storm's speed, direction and winds.

In the air, the scenery can change within moments from the gray and choppy eye wall to the storm's eerily bright and serene eye.

But on the ground, violent and dangerous winds are ravaging the Bahamas – and Dorian's next target is the United States.

While continuing to track Dorian's wrath, the plane will face thunderstorms that can flood the cockpit with bright purple light. It's one of only 12 planes in the world allowed to travel through thunderstorms, while every other plane has to stay 10 to 20 miles away.

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