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NWS Omaha putting weather balloons into sky to track Hurricane Irma

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VALLEY, Ne (FOX42KPTM) - As Hurricane Irma moves closer to the United States, the National Weather Service now wants to know more about it.

"It is a very strong hurricane," said Barbara Mayes, a meteorologist. "It's one of the strongest on record both for pressure and for wind speeds."

The team based in Valley, Nebraska is now sending up weather balloons to get as much data as it can. To get the best information, the balloons are being released once every six hours.

"We have instruments on the balloons that include GPS monitors so we can track the location," said Mayes.

Mayes is currently tracking the storm over Puerto Rico. She wants to know how far west it will actually get. The balloons will make that picture clearer. Information from electronic boxes goes to the weather service's national centers.

"The instruments will measure the temperature and the humidity as they go up through the atmosphere. By tracking, we can also gage the wind speed and wind direction as it goes up."

For now, there are plenty of unknowns. A lot can change between now and the weekend.

"One thing we don't know very clearly is when exactly it's going to make a north turn."

The balloons will help with that question and likely keep going up into early next week at least.

If you happen to find a National Weather Service electronic box, staffers encourage you to not keep it or throw it away. They want it back. We're told the boxes can be recycled and reused.

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