As coastal Floridians hunker down in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian, teams of pilots at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are charged with flying right up to the strengthening storm to gather data to help keep people safe — and they love it.
They’re called the Hurricane Hunters, and one of the crews is getting buzz for its all-female lineup: Lt. Lindsey Norman, Capt. Kristie Twining and Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Waddington. The three women flew their first Hurricane Hunters mission together on Thursday.
“It was great,” said Norman in an interview with Know Your Value. Norman is currently training to pilot a G-IV plane. “It was my first hurricane mission in the aircraft, and I was fortunate to fly with Capt. Twining and Lt. Cmdr. Waddington. I’ve been working with them for five years. They’ve been mentors to me.”
Based in Lakeland, Fla., the Hurricane Hunters crews fly up to about 45,000 feet to get a big picture of the storm and its course.
“A lot of people have asked me what the storm looks like. A lot of it is very beautiful, but it’s not as dramatic as people might think,” said Norman.
Once over the storm, the Hurricane Hunters drop cylindrical monitoring devices called “dropsondes,” which gather measurements like humidity, pressure, temperature and wind speed.
Each mission takes about eight hours. The crews alternate and fly continuously on a 24-hour cycle throughout the course of the storm. The information is funneled to forecasters and affected citizens.
In 2018, Twining and Waddington comprised the first ever all-women Hurricane Hunter team when they flew a G-IV over Hurricane Hector in Hawaii.
“I actually heard about the NOAA Hurricane Hunters when I was a really young child...I always thought it was a really unique and challenging job,” said Norman.
With the addition of Norman to the crew yesterday, the all-female Hurricane Hunters took a photo to capture the historic moment. NOAA posted it on Twitter, and it went viral.
“This was just the first time we had three women, and it represented the future for aviation,” said Jonathan Shannon, communications specialist at NOAA. “We had two experienced female aviators mentoring the next generation coming up. We thought it was neat to capture in a photo.”
As for Hurricane Dorian, which appears to be gathering strength before it touches down in Florida, Norman recommended that affected residents keep checking reports. Dorian is expected to become a Category 3 hurricane on Friday and a Category 4 by Sunday morning.
“The storm is changing a lot. All I can really say is, keep looking at the weather updates ..."