Here’s a use for Microsoft Flight Simulator that I didn’t anticipate- amateur storm chasers are using it to fly into Hurricane Laura.
Above & around Hurricane LauraMicrosoft Flight Simulator (Live Weather) pic.twitter.com/T7v8aJ0jhGAugust 27, 2020
So far, plenty of buzz has been made about Microsoft Flight Simulator’s accurate controls and 1:1 scale recreation of the Earth. Critics are hailing the game’s Bing Maps powered geography as the “first true next gen” feature, while real pilots are coming away impressed by how true-to-life the game’s airplanes feel when flying. But perhaps more impressive is the game’s real-time live weather, which also uses Bing to recreate actual weather conditions across the whole globe as they happen.
While Microsoft Flight Simulator’s world map is static and based on data that’s a few years old- some skyscrapers near my apartment aren’t there in the game- its weather updates in sync with real life. That means that, while I can’t buzz over some of New York’s more recent construction sites, I can fly through thunderstorms as they rain down on my building’s roof.
For the most part, I’ve mostly brushed this feature off. I like flying in clear weather, both so I can sight see more easily and because I’m not very good at flying. But I hadn’t considered the weather itself as a potential sightseeing destination...until now.
Enter Hurricane Laura. The storm, which made contact in Louisiana early this morning as a Category 4 hurricane before weakening into a Category 1 as it worked its way through the state, is the strongest storm the region has faced in over a century. And you can fly into it in Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Searching for “Hurricane Laura Microsoft Flight Simulator” on YouTube brings up pages of results, while impressive screenshots of players flying into the storm are already starting to hit Twitter. And, while I'm not a weather reporter, the game seems to depict it accurately.
Hurricane Laura looks impressive in Flight Simulator! ⛈️✈️ pic.twitter.com/FGhsAqE2c5August 26, 2020
While Hurricane Laura has been weakening as it makes its way inland and local governments are starting to lift evacuation orders, the damage has already been severe enough to knock out power for more than 600,000 people. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards warns that the storm’s threat is “far from over” and that “Now is not the time to go sightseeing.”
That’s assuming, of course, that you don’t have Microsoft Flight Simulator. Storm chasing has never been so safe.