Inside the Hurricane Hunter and its life-saving data collection

BOSTON — We are less than a month away from the start of hurricane season, but it's never too early to prepare.

As the National Weather Service cautions people to avoid the coast, a team of scientists is flying right into the storm to collect data Boston 25 Meteorologist use to help forecast when and where tropical cyclones are going to go.

"There was a short time that Ike was flying the airplane and I was not," pilot Ivan Deroche joked. "I guess that only lasted about 30 seconds maybe, but it felt like a lifetime."

He's the pilot of the Air Force Reserve WC-30 Hercules, one of 12 planes hurricane forecasters depend on to get critical information from inside the storm.

"We're not really certain what we're getting into sometimes as we're penetrating the eyewall," weather officer Ryan Rickert said.

>> Resources: FEMA Emergency Supply List

For the sake of science and public safety, these scientists fly over and over into some of earth's largest storms, collecting wind, pressure, cloud, moisture and ocean measurements.

Data from the aircraft is helping to make forecasts more reliable than ever before, which is critical as coastal population rises right along with the sea level.

"Sea level is rising. It's absolutely rising and it's going to continue to rise for the rest of our lifetime," storm surge specialist Jamie Rhome said.

When Hurricane Bob hit in 1991, it pushed 15 feet of water up into Buzzard's Bay, destroying 61 homes and taking 50 feet of beach away from the islands.

And the latest research is telling us that one foot of sea level rise doesn't just mean an extra foot of storm surge, it equates to double or even more. So, a weaker hurricane can now produce the same type of inundation that a major hurricane used to produce.

That's why Massachusetts will spend more than a billion dollars to protect its coastline from the ever-encroaching ocean.

And for this team, early alerts are everything.

"Decide what you're going to do, evacuate, hunker your properties down, take your precautions long before you get into the wind field because by then it's too late," hydrologist David Vallee said.

For a list of supplies that you should stock in your emergency kit, click here.