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  • No two storms are alike, so when we first go into a storm,

  • we don't even know what we're going to expect.

  • We're out there 8-10 hours.

  • My stress level in a flight is typically high, and I can say that's probably a good thing,

  • 'cause it keeps me sharp and on my toes.

  • But you pretty much hang on and trust your judgment and trust the judgment of the pilots,

  • and hope for the best.

  • This work is important for me because I believe it's a crucial help to the American people

  • in warning them on whether the storm is going to impact their lives and property.

  • I started working for NOAA in 2007, and two years later, in 2009, I started flying into hurricanes.

  • Hurricane hunters fly in and around the hurricane or tropical storm environment

  • to gather critical information that helps predict where the storm is going,

  • and what the intensity is going to be.

  • The first storm I flew into was just east of the East Coast of the U.S.

  • Seeing the actual eyewall on the radar and knowing that we were going to go inside the center was

  • it was awesome.

  • You get to look out the window and see these thunderstorms right outside your window as

  • you're flying close to them and through them.

  • So this is where I sit as a Flight Director.

  • We have several monitors that we keep an eye on.

  • Up front, we have the pilots that sit in the left seat and the right seat,

  • and we have a flight engineer here that sits in the middle.

  • We have our lead scientist typically sit in this seat, where they have a good view

  • out the window, and they have some monitors to look at the data.

  • And if we go a little further back, we have here to the left is where the navigator sits.

  • They make the radio calls, they determine our flight path and call in for our locations.

  • Back here is the galley.

  • We have the restroom, the food, the kitchen - most important part.

  • We have a cooler back here to put our food, and a microwave, and coffee,

  • and that's about it.

  • We're notified when to fly by the National Hurricane Center, or by the Hurricane Research Division,

  • typically 24 hours in advance.

  • I need to look at several things to do a briefing for the entire crew to keep the airplane safe.

  • We need to find out whether the storm is predicted to be a rapid intensifier.

  • We're looking for any tornadoes, and other critical items

  • about the structure of the storm that could pose a threat.

  • If there's any concerns about our mission, we may choose another plan.

  • As a flight director we are in charge of the mission, and we direct the plane

  • in and around the storm to get to the locations where we need to gather that critical data.

  • One of the biggest challenges, but also most fun for me, is hunting for the center of the storm,

  • and that's where the wind speed is zero.

  • It's actually kind of more like an art, to not make too many turns

  • but fly over that exact center spot.

  • Once I find the center of the storm, we mark it.

  • The navigator marks the latitude and longitude;

  • we also collect the highest wind speeds of the storm, which is typically in the eyewall,

  • on our way in or out of the center.

  • This station to the left is our dropsonde operator.

  • They're listening for me to call when to release a dropsonde or a buoy, and they use these

  • two tubes right here, and they flip this switch right here,

  • and the bottom lever opens up, and the pressure differential

  • between the outside air and the inside of the airplane pretty much sucks the dropsonde

  • out of the tube and out into the atmosphere.

  • Once they're released, a little parachute is connected to it.

  • It goes up, out into the air to keep the dropsonde stable as it falls through the atmosphere,

  • collecting wind speed and wind direction and fall rate all the way down, until it hits

  • the ocean's surface.

  • We have a person from the Hurricane Research Division sitting here and processing those

  • dropsondes that fall into the water.

  • They gather the data, process it, package it up, and send it off the airplane.

  • They use that information to make their official Hurricane Center forecast, which is what all

  • the news stations and everyone grabs to find out what's going on with the storm.

  • Growing up, I used to always ask the question, “why?" about everything.

  • And there's always more questions.

  • We'll never understand fully how these things develop.

  • The lure of studying hurricanes for me is just being completely fascinated with how these storms develop,

  • and I wanted to actually take a firsthand look and see for myself.

  • In this next episode, a wildlife biologist has the tense job of tracking grizzly bears.

  • Thanks for watching and be sure to subscribe for more episodes.

No two storms are alike, so when we first go into a storm,

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    joey joey posted on 2021/04/16
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