WATCH: Kansas native among ‘hurricane hunters’ that flew through Ian

Kansas native Capt. Garrett Black is among the "Hurricane Hunters" who flew over Hurricane Ian.
Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 7:45 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - By now, many have seen video from a group of “hurricane hunters” who say Ian provided the roughest hurricane flight they’ve ever experienced. The group flies into some of the fiercest storms on the planet to drop sensors to measure strength and help forecasters on the ground predict where a storm is headed. It’s technology that can save lives.

One of the “hurricane hunters” on the flight through Hurricane Ian was Kansas native, U.S. Air Force Captain Garrett Black. Thursday, he spoke about his experience with Storm Team 12 meteorologist Cassie Wilson.

CW: So, “hurricane hunter.” It’s a really cool job and an important one. Tell us a little bit of why it’s so important.

GB: Yeah, there’s a lot of things that the National Hurricane Center is able to get into learn about the storm via satellite and the models and whatnot, but we’re able to add that extra dimension of actually being able to go fly through the storm at about 10,000 feet and our WC 130 j so we’re able to collect different parts of data that the hurricane center may be missing, such as in the eyewall how strong the winds are, and as well as actually getting into the eye to find out that lowest pressure.

CW: That is very cool. So as a Kansan, this question may be a little obvious Kansas and whether it kind of goes hand in hand, but explain exactly how you got to where you’re at.

GB: Yeah, well, growing up just outside Haven. super fascinated with tornadoes, as most Kansans are it seems, and I remember as a kid, a lot of people in the Wichita area will remember the Hesston tornado that went pretty much right by my house as a kid growing up and twisted one of our big trees. And so that was kind of a starting fascination moment for me in my early years of being interested in the weather and storms, specifically so obviously as I grew up and learning more and more about the weather, kind of hurricanes became one of my bigger focuses.

CW: Walk us through what exactly you experienced flying through Ian.

GB: You know, I’ve flown quite a few different hurricanes over the past five years, and this was definitely a memorable one. Going into it, we knew it was going to be a bit rougher just based on the amount of lightning we were seeing as we were descending and started heading into the eye the first time on radar. It didn’t look particularly different than a lot of other hurricanes. But we later found out that the radar was struggling seeing different aspects of the storm. And so when we ended up going through the eyewall we had quite a bit of hail, a lot of lightning and I would say definitely severe turbulence than the ride. Definitely very, very rough. More so. A lot of the hurricanes have flown before. So definitely a memorable flight.