Utah researcher tracks Hurricane Florence from thousands of miles away

Trey Alvey, a PhD. student in atmospheric science at the University of Utah, is watching closely, even though he's thousands of miles away, as Hurricane Florence approaches the East Coast. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — More than 2,200 miles from the Carolina coast, researchers in Utah are tracking Hurricane Florence as it intensifies in the Atlantic.

Trey Alvey, a PhD. student in atmospheric science at the University of Utah, is watching closely as the storm approaches the coast.

“It has the potential to be devastating for sure,” Alvey said.

He’s researching the intensity and fluctuations of tropical hurricanes and cyclones, and because of advancements in technology, he can work from thousands of miles away.

“Everything is online nowadays. Pretty much everything can be accessed remotely," Alvey explained.

The most recent models and maps are available at his fingertips. He said Florence’s forecasts are changing rapidly.

“Often times, you’ll have shifts in the track. You have a cone of uncertainty," he said. "The impacts often go outside of the cone. You have flooding rains, you have storm surge and then you have the wind impacts."

Around this time last year, Alvey got to fly with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration directly into Hurricane Irma as it barreled toward the Florida coast.

“I’ll be honest with you, I was pretty scared," he said.

Alvey was suspended in the clouds as the Category 5 storm intensified.

“There were whole range of emotions all at once," he said. "If the plane goes down, the plane goes down. But at the same time, you’re entrusting everything to some of the best pilots in the world.”

He experienced the violent turbulence entering the eyewall, followed by the peaceful skies once inside of the storm.

"It's a moment I'll never forget," Alvey said.

Through his first-hand experience and hours of lab research, Alvey’s goal is to be on the forefront of meteorological science.

"If you’d asked or talked to someone in the field 10 or 20 years ago,” he said, “I don’t think they could have imagined the tools we’d have available now.”

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