Florida lawmaker flies into Hurricane Irma
© Greg Nash

A Florida lawmaker joined national meteorologists on a flight Friday to inspect Hurricane Irma as the storm nears the U.S. mainland.

Rep. Dennis RossDennis Alan RossTexas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request Florida lawmaker flies into Hurricane Irma Flood insurance reform bill clears committee MORE (R-Fla.) said he joined crew from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to gather information on the hurricane.

Ross said he wanted to "better understand the process behind bringing Floridians and all Americans accurate and up-to-date weather forecasts when they need it most."

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The Florida Republican flew on the NOAA's Hurricane Hunter WP-3D Orion aircraft across the storm four times on Friday as part of the crew's mission to fly through the storm at least twice a day until it arrives in Florida to gather data, local newspaper The Ledger reported. 

"On this flight, I witnessed first-hand the selflessness and dedication of the NOAA employees who risk their lives to gather this life-saving information," Ross said in the statement.

Ross, whose district is home to the NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center, said on the flight that Irma is "unlike anything you’ve ever seen. People need to evacuate if they’re going to be in the eye of this thing." 

Officials are urging residents to evacuate as Irma is expected to make landfall on Florida's south coast early Sunday.

The storm is one of the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic, and is set to cause the largest mass evacuation in U.S. history, with nearly seven million people expected to evacuate across several states.

"We must remain vigilant and prepared," Ross said. "I cannot stress enough the importance of staying informed, obeying evacuation orders, and preparing our homes and families for this hurricane. Protecting lives is our first and only focus at this moment."