WASHINGTON (WUSA9) – Their hurricane video has people all over the world asking, “What’s wrong with you?” and “Why would you do that?”
“I was out there trying to get measurements,” Juston Drake explained with a laugh and a smile.
A viral video shows him barely keeping his feed on the ground as Hurricane Irma blows through the Florida Keys.
At one point, Drake fell to the ground and looked like he was about to be gone with the wind, but he stabilized himself and faced Irma’s Category 4 winds head on. In his hand is a tiny instrument meant to measure wind speed.
He was standing in the “eyewall,” which is the area immediately outside the eye of the storm.
“Those winds were anywhere from 130 to 140 miles per hour,” he estimated. “The highest we recorded was 117, but those [instruments] usually underestimate the winds, so I have no doubt they could be 130-plus.”
Drake is a meteorologist and storm chaser. Same goes for the guy who was behind the camera—Simon Brewer, who also braved some of Irma’s strongest winds. They’ve been chasing storms together since graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 2008.
On Twitter, Brewer described the scene in the Keys as “apocalyptic.” The data they gathered there will help keep us all safer in the future, especially when it comes to improving building construction.
But Brewer and Drake will get a little more out of their video than a little internet fame and a legendary bar story—they’ll get paid.
The pair freelance, chasing whatever storms pop up all over the country, from tornadoes, to ice storms, and blizzards. They sell and license their videos and photos. But their payday from facing Irma could take about six months, Brewer said.
As far as safety goes, don’t try this at home—or wherever the next hurricane swirls. Drake and Brewer said they always have a game plan for chasing storms.
“When it comes to chasing hurricanes, there’s two main dangers you have to worry about: It’s making sure nothing hits you that’s been carried in the wind and also making sure you don’t drown,” Drake explained “We always make sure we’re in a high enough place so that we don’t have to worry about any storm surge or inland flooding drowning us, and we always make sure when we go out and measure the winds that we’re somewhere where there’s not going to be any debris that can be picked up and hit us.”