Researchers track Hurricane Florence to improve predictions for the next storm

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Scientists are already gathering data from Hurricane Florence to better predict the next one.

To Sean Waugh, a research scientist at NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory, hurricanes like Florence are an opportunity.

"We've been down here for a couple days so we've kind of looked around and have a couple of good spots in mind," Waugh said.

His job on Thursday was to start monitoring the upper atmosphere by launching high-tech weather sensors inside balloons, right into the middle of Florence. CBS News caught up with him at the Wilmington airport, not far from the Carolina coastline, as he prepared for liftoff.

"Every bit of data we collect helps," Waugh said.

We got the chance to launch a balloon ourselves, which could reach 120,000 feet.

"The goal is looking at Hurricane Florence as it moves on shore, where the winds are and where it occurs on the ground, transitioning from a hurricane all the way down to a tropical depression. It's the whole picture is basically what we're after," Waugh said.

Waugh said he's studied five hurricanes in real time and the data gathered from each one have helped people prepare for the next.