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Environment

USF Professor Hitches a Ride Into the Eye of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy is now directly east of the Tampa Bay area, and is drifting north in the Atlantic off Florida's east coast. Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center say it's diminished slightly, with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour. The storm caused 40 deaths in the Carribbean and is expected to nail the northeastern U.S., creating a devastating winter storm.

One University of South Florida professor got a first-hand look at the eye of Hurricane Sandy, and says she got quite a ride. 

After eight hours in the sky, USF professor and meteorologist Jennifer Collins is back on terra firma.  She and a team of "hurricane hunters" made five passes through the storm to collect data on Sandy's strength and path.  She says that as of yesterday, the storm had not intensified as much as models had predicted.  But she also cautions that this could change as the storm moves up the east coast.

This was Collins' first time flying through a hurricane.  She says that passing through the eye wall was the most exciting part of the flight.        

"I can kind of equate it to when you’re on one of those old fashioned roller coasters," she says. "Not the part where you have the sharp turns, but the kind of wooden bumpiness – that’s what it feels like.”  

Collins will use the data for a research project documenting the weather history of Tampa Bay.