Over his six years of flying into hurricanes, engineer Nick Underwood said his flight into the eye of Hurricane Ian was the worst he’s ever seen.

Wood and his crew flew 8,000 feet above the ocean to the storm’s center Tuesday night. At the time, Ian was rapidly intensifying into a high-end Category 4 storm with 155-mph sustained winds – enough to cause damage similar to that of a strong tornado. Barrages of lightning illuminated the night sky, making it appear almost like daytime.

Wood captured intense images aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s WP-3D Orion plane.

“Absolutely wild,” Underwood tweeted. “All of this in the eye, in which we circled for some time to deploy the UAS (uncrewed aerial system). A high-end Cat 4 storm. Nearly Cat 5. All of this at 8,000 feet above the ocean. I’m glad we only did one pass.

Underwood is one of NOAA’s hurricane hunters, who fly into storms to gather data on wind speed, pressure and moisture to better project a storm’s path and intensity in forecasting models. The team only made one pass through the eye because of the storm’s intensity. The team also deployed an uncrewed aerial system to gather more observations.

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