BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WDAM) - Living in south Mississippi, hurricanes are a fact of life. While many people flee their path, one man purposely puts himself inside the eye of the storm.
“So, when I started chasing in the 90s, I was just a full on adrenaline junkie. It was just about getting in the storm,” Josh Morgerman said.
Hurricanes are some of nature’s most destructive forces, but to Morgerman, they’re something that he’s been obsessed with his whole life.
“I think my obsession with hurricanes is something I was born with," Morgerman said. "Kind of like this weird mental tick, and I think that’s how it is with storm chasers. I mean listen, there’s got to be something strange about you to want to constantly put yourself in danger.”
You see, Morgerman is a professional hurricane chaser. Known on Twitter as iCyclone, he’s been featured on The Weather Channel, mainstream media and even has a show on The Science Channel.
Living in Los Angeles for the past 30 years, it’s quite easy for him to chase tropical systems across the globe. But because of the pandemic, he decided to relocate to Mississippi.
“So in this spring, the whole pandemic was raging and I realized, ‘OK, this chase season’s going to be different.’ So, I’m like, ‘All right, if I’m going to be stuck in North America I might as well just live in the heart of hurricane country.’ And I said, ‘All right, where can I be that’s going to be a nice midpoint from where I could drive to any of these places?’ And that is Mississippi. So then was a matter of finding the right town and the right house and all that. And that’s how I ended up in Bay St Louis," Morgerman said.
Morgerman has an impressive track record. He’s been in the eye of more than 50 hurricanes and typhoons. Of those, five were Category 5 storms.
“When you’re in the core of an intense hurricane, for me, it’s almost like a religious experience. You know? As you get closer and closer to the center of the hurricane, it gets more and more wild. And then when you’re deep in it, it’s just crazy," Morgerman said. "The sound of it howling or the screaming sound. You can’t put it into words. It’s just something very unusual, just the energy of it. And video doesn’t capture it. You know, it doesn’t capture the vibrations you’re feeling in your body from it. I mean it is like an intense experience. And then to go from that to all of a sudden, in a minute, it just calms down and you’re in the calm of the exact center of the eye. It’s a magical experience.”
But out of all of those magical experiences, one storm still stands out.
“Hands down was Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas," Morgerman said. "So this was not just a Category 5, this was deep into Category 5. This was sustained winds of 185 mph, gusts well over 200. So, I went through that hurricane on Great Abaco Island, in a little town called Marsh Harbour. It went right through the worst of it and through the eye. That was an unbelievable experience, and I’ll tell you it was scary.”
But chasing hurricanes is not just about getting good video. He also collects and freely shares valuable weather data from handheld barometers inside the storm.
“I would say in the last 10 years that’s what’s exciting me most about chasing," Morgerman said. "Collecting data that makes a difference in the science. That give scientists that missing puzzle piece. So that when they’re looking at what happened afterward and they’re analyzing it they either one, have better confidence in what they thought was happening at the time or two, that they had the better understanding. One that might change their verdict on for example how strong the storm was.”
His data has also been published in several meteorological reports and scientific publications. But chasing hurricanes and being on TV is not always glamorous.
“You think of Hurricane Dorian, I was trapped on that island for days living in my car," Morgerman said. "You know, like sleeping in my car, eating nuts and rationing my water. And it took days to get off that island. Now was it worth it to me? It absolutely was. I mean the data I collected inside that historic hurricane, that alone made it worth it for me. But for a lot of people, that kind of danger, that kind of discomfort wouldn’t be worth it.”
2020 has been a busy year and the season is not over yet. So for now, Josh’s adventure will continue as he pursues the eye of the storm.