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Storm chasers who risked their lives by heading into the path of Hurricane Irma have been criticised by officials for dicing with death in pursuit of “an adrenaline rush.”
Self-styled meteorologist Juston Drake was pictured stumbling backwards and almost losing his footing as he faced winds in excess of 100mph in the Florida Keys.
Wearing a paintballing mask, Mr Drake was almost blown off his feet as he tried to get a wind speed reading when he left his car and stood up to the storm.
It comes as curfews were imposed in the area and 6.4 million people in the state were told to seek shelter elsewhere.
Footage emerged of the daring storm chaser as the hurricane, which laid waste to a number of islands in the Caribbean and left several dead, made landfall in the US state.
Mr Drake also filmed his friend and fellow storm chaser Simon Brewer attempting to get a wind reading.
But after the images of the pair were shared on Twitter, viewers, including a firefighter, were quick to branded their actions as “stupid.”
Twitter user Georg Papp commented on the footage, which has been retweeted more than 4,000 times, saying: “I’m sorry but this is stupid…”
Defending the Mr Drake, one social media user replied: “I disagree, this is what storm chasers do at [their] own risk.”
But Mr Papp added: “And as a fireman, I go out and rescue them at my own risk.”
He said: “Real meteorologists are inside, safely providing us data, updates and predictions to help the public. These guys are idiots… They are risking their lives for likes, retweets & an adrenaline rush. This isn’t about collecting data.”
Mr Brewer later posted an image online of an anemometer with a wind speed reading of 117mph.
The pair are part of a group of professional storm chasers, or “storm riders”, who pursue extreme weather phenomena, and have previously documented tropical cyclones including Hurricane Katrina.
The video was some of the first footage showing Irma hitting Florida, and the hurricane is now heading up the west coast of the peninsula, with cities Tampa and St. Petersburg expected to bear the brunt.
Other so-called storm chasers who ignored advice to leave the area posted videos online showing the dramatic scenes in Florida keys.
One video, posted on Twitter by user @storm_chaser82, shows the ferocious winds blasting Key West as they remain there to film the scenes.
Curfews were imposed in Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and much of the rest of South Florida as the huge storm approached.
While Irma raked Florida’s Gulf Coast, forecasters warned that the entire state was in danger because of the sheer size of the storm.
In one of the largest US evacuations, nearly seven million people in the south east were warned to seek shelter elsewhere, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.
US President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration and emergency federal aid for Florida.
The Standard has approached Mr Drake for comment.
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