CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) – Chief Meteorologist Dave
Williams had a chance to fly with the Air Force Hurricane Hunters over
The crew left from Savannah and traveled up the Eastern Seaboard
to meet the storm.
As the massive aircraft made
repeated passes across Sandy,
it monitored everything from pressure and direction to wind speed and wave
heights. Those measurements help forecasters know where Sandy is going and when.
At first glance, this looks like the
cockpit of a routine military flight. But it's anything but normal -- as these
pilots willingly fly into some of the worst weather on the planet.
After takeoff from Savannah, the familiar spiral bands of a
hurricane came into view. The Hurricane Hunter crew started flying a back and
forth pattern across Sandy,
with the goal of getting the most up to the minute information on the ground.
information is critical when it comes to issuing the official watches and
warnings put in place to keep people safe.
smooth ride is not always a guarantee for the hurricane hunters.
"That's what you're checking:
its movement, intensity and all that, so I like to know what they're thinking
before you go out, but of course you always expect the unexpected as well,"
said The flight meteorologist says she loves flying with the hurricane hunters
and she's seen her fair share of storm. But she said something about Hurricane
Sandy is a little different.
"What's interesting about this
is how broad the whole thing is and just that reminder: don't focus on that
little pinpoint of where it is right now, the effects are going to be seen
quite a distance from the center."
He crew uses scientific data from
instruments called "dropsonds," tube-like objects sent out of the
bottom of the aircraft into the storm.
"We'll drop a sonde into the
center of the storm to find out the lowest pressure of the storm, and whether
the storm is decreasing or increasing in intensity," she said.
She also reads measurements from the
"I'll follow the winds in
basically since the winds are blowing counter-clockwise around the low, as long
as we fly with the left wing pointing up into the wind, the nose is pointed
toward the center," she said. "This was our first pass through the
center, you see the wind actually change direction right here, you see the
winds are really very strong in the center, we have much stronger winds on
either side of it."
And she relies on a little old
"Periodically you'll see me looking
out the window because I'm looking at the water, and I'm using the same thing
that sailors have used for centuries. They could tell how strong the winds were
by what the water looks like, so you'll see long streaks in the water --
actually the foam takes on a greenish color about 35 miles per hour -- things
At the end of the day, the main job
is helping meteorologists on the ground understand where the storm is headed so
they can help get people out of harm's way before it's too late.
But as the flight meteorologist
would agree, the view out the office window isn't so bad.
"This is a full time job, and
it really is a dream job for a meteorologist. You're up there experiencing the
weather. I'm sure you've always been interested in severe weather, that's what
got us into this, plus I love to fly. It's a dream job and I feel real lucky to
be paid to do something that's so interesting and is helping people too,"