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National Weather Service gathers data in Blacksburg on Florence path

Why the staff is launching extra weather balloons, what they may learn

BLACKSBURG, Va. – As Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast, meteorologists are trying to gather all the data they can to help predict the storm’s path.

Meteorologists in Blacksburg with the National Weather Service are adding to information that experts all along the East Coast are examining.

Specifically, they are trying to learn more about the weather conditions that Florence will face when it reaches Virginia. 

“What we're trying to do right now is measure (the conditions) because they’re going to make all the difference in the world whether this hurricane moves very quickly through the area or if it stalls,” said Dave Wert, meteorologist in charge with the National Weather Service.

Staff members typically launch balloons at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day this time of year, but they’re now sending up two extra balloons starting Monday.

“Every six hours we're taking that new snapshot and we're bringing in all of that from all the other upper-air launch sites, in addition to aircraft observations and satellite observations, to integrate this and try to get the most detailed picture of this storm,” Wert said.

10 News cameras were there when meteorologists launched an extra balloon Monday afternoon.

The balloons travel more than 100,000 feet up in the air, which is nearly 19 miles, rising more than a thousand feet per minute. The device attached to them records temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, plus pressure.

They send the information around the world. Part of the usefulness of the data is that it could allow meteorologists to eliminate potential paths the storm could take.

“By increasing the sampling of the atmosphere what we're trying to do is narrow that spread to increase our confidence,” Wert said.

Staff members said more people than normal will be working later this week to handle all the information and they're prepared to go all-hands-on-deck if they need to do so.