Behind the scenes with the Hurricane Hunters

As we are in the midst of hurricane season, let’s check in on a group that’s essential to the Hurricane Center since their data narrows the cone of uncertainty.

“I would say my count is probably about 30 storms in total.”

“I’ve probably flown in about 12 to 15 different hurricanes.”

“I have no clue. I’m sorry.”

“I’m working on my 11th season I believe. It’s countless storms.”

These are some crew members for the Hurricane Hunters. Together they collect valuable information that is sent to the Hurricane Center. Lt. Col. Ryan Rickert said, “A lot of time you’re flying over those really intense storms and you know there are people down on the ground that the storm is going to pass over. So, it’s humbling knowing you’re going to provide that information to the Hurricane Center that will help possibly keep people safe and make them aware of what’s coming their way.”

The information they collect is critical to the nation, but the ride can be a little bumpy. “Hours of boredom and moments of sheer terror.”

Captain Ryan Smithies said, “It’s like riding a rollercoaster in downpour rain with zero visibility. You can’t see, you get ups and downs, weightlessness. Every storm is different. I think that’s the part that’s most exciting because you never really know what you’re going to get.”

Since 1944, they’ve been the only Department of Defense organization still flying into tropical storms and hurricanes. Tech Sgt. David Calloway said, “When you’re in the storm environment, you’re so task saturated you don’t really understand what you’re really into until you’re on the way home. You start settling down your brain and you thought settling and you can go huh and you feel proud.”

Maj. Kendall Dunn said, “Something I do prior to going into the storm is walk around the plane, say a little prayer, and get ready to roll. Come back, look at the sky, and thank the lord. That’s what I do.”

A dangerous mission that must be completed so you know when to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

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