As Floridians flee from Hurricane Irma or hunker down and await her arrival U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican, joined the crew of “Kermit,” a Lockheed WP-3D Orion turboprop hurricane hunter aircraft to meet her Friday.
Reached at his home just an hour after what he called an amazing four trips through the eye of the hurricane, he began making his preparations for the massive storm.
“This thing is twice the size of Andrew,” he said. “I am trying to get things together here at the house and reeling after the trip. Members of the Florida and Georgia Congressional delegations conferenced with FEMA officials today. They already have help staged and ready to go after the storm.”
Ross and the crew left Lakeland Linder Airport at 3 a.m. Friday and caught up with the hurricane over the Caribbean Islands. It was easy to see that the tremendous storm is indeed larger than the width of the state.
“We flew into the eye the first time at 10,000 feet, and as it was still dark you could see the stars above,” Ross said. “And during the three additional trips through at 8,000 feet, you could still see a little sky, but the eye was unsettled. The inner walls die down and are replaced by another wall.”
The congressman praised what he described as the complete thoroughness of the crew as it methodically went through the hurricane time and again to gather the information needed by the National Hurricane Center and emergency officials.
“We did a figure four inside the hurricane,” he said, “dropping twenty sensors every so many miles, then did a 130 degree left turn and dropped again, then another 130-degrees turning left and one more time turning left 130 degrees.”