‘One of the bumpier rides’: Hurricane Hunter breaks down Hurricane Elsa


TAMPA (WFLA) – Hurricane Hunters play a critical role in gathering real-time data about tropical systems and storms. Events like Hurricane Elsa keep those flight crews very busy.

The National Hurricane Center was able to forecast the path of Hurricane Elsa five days out by pinpointing a track just off of the Pinellas County coastline.

U.S. Air Force Captain Ryan Smithies flew two missions into Hurricane Elsa, providing data to create an accurate forecast – but it’s not always a smooth ride when flying into lopsided systems like Elsa.

“Most of the tropical storms we fly tend to be bumpier rides, and really it has do to with organization. I mean, if you think about a major hurricane, particularly ones that are out over the open ocean, there’s not a lot of disruption to it,” Smithies continued. “So, you really don’t get as much vertical turbulence, uh, if you will, flying through it. So, tropical storms, especially if they’re encountering landmasses or hostile atmospheric conditions, it really creates a very turbulent environment in the storm, which translates to the more bumpy ride. So, Elsa held true to that, I would say one of the bumpier rides I’ve had in the last couple years.”

Smithies says he’s ready for a busy season following the busiest season in history.

“If 2020 taught us anything it’s to be on our A-game all the time and be prepared all the time,” Smithies said.

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