Hurricane Dorian: US Air Force Captures Vortex of Lightning, Swirling Colors in Eye of Storm

Photo and video footage from Air Force Reserve planes flying in the eye of Hurricane Dorian shows stunning scenes from inside the storm that is making its way toward the East Coast. Crews aboard specially adapted military planes called Hurricane Hunters, including the W-130 Hercules, gathered information about the storm's projected path and strength from inside the hurricane to give vital indicators to people on the ground.

In the almost peaceful looking footage from Sunday, a royal blue sky stretches overhead, surrounded by a "stadium" of thunderstorms rapidly orbiting the center. But just a few miles away, beneath the bowl of clouds, the Bahamas were being pummeled by 185 mph winds amid the Category 5 hurricane.

The night before, an aircraft captured lighting illuminating Dorian's core. Eye wall lightning is ordinarily a sporadic by-product of hurricanes, but lightning barrages reminiscent of Dorian's can be a sign of an intensifying storm — and by Sunday morning, the storm was so intense that it was the second-strongest hurricane in the Atlantic on record.

Hurricane Hunters fly into the eye of every hurricane, collecting world-class data that's fed into weather models to enhance storm forecasts, every once in a while capturing photos that words can't even describe.

At 10 a.m. ET, Dorian was spinning in the Atlantic less than 100 miles from the Florida coast, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm is currently moving parallel to the northeastern coast of Florida.

The center is forecasting roughly 15 inches of rainfall in the Carolinas, with Dorian threatening to make landfall sometime this week. South Carolina and southeast North Carolina are at high risk for flash flooding on Thursday, the NHC said.

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Dorian's close proximity to the coast and the fact that its eye is 50 miles wide means that even if the storm's center doesn't make landfall along the southeast U.S., its eye wall, with wind gusts of 100 mph, could pass over land.

"If this storm is 30 miles offshore, that means the Carolina coast does, in fact, get the eye wall," CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Wednesday. "It may not get the center of the eye, but who cares? The center of the eye is calm. It is the eye wall that is the most important part. And as it turns on up toward the north ... even if it's offshore, the eye wall could be very much onshore."