Hurricane hunter describes what it's like in the storm
By WNCN Staff
June 1 is the start of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Most people experience hurricanes as they hit land, but there are a few people who experience hurricanes in the air. Those people fly in the hurricane hunter aircraft during hurricane season for the National Hurricane Center.
Stan Goldenberg is one of the most experienced researchers out there. He's also one of the most experienced passengers on NOAA's hurricane hunter aircraft.
Some of us may have experienced rough weather in the air before while on board a commercial flight, but never as bad as a hurricane. WNCN's Chief Meteorologist Wes Hohenstein caught up with Goldenberg to talk about what the difference between flying in a thunderstorm and a hurricane.
"I don't know the pilots. I don't know how experienced they are in that kind of weather. When I'm on one of our hurricane planes, I've got the instruments right in front of me," says Goldenberg. "I have the radar. I know the pilots. You're more free to move around and know what's happening and the planes are made for that kind of weather and we have a reason we go through the weather, to collect all the data."
Goldenberg is also on the committee that helps issue the annual outlook for the hurricane season. So how do he and other researchers come up with the annual hurricane forecast?
"We're all looking at the data trying to come up with a forecast, looking at the different aspects of the data and it's interesting no matter how much arguing or heated discussion goes on, when we stop and give our first crack at the forecast, we're all almost on the exact same page," says Goldenberg.
In the late 1990's North Carolina was hit by two bad hurricanes, Fran and Floyd. Fran hit in 1996 as a Category 3 and caused an estimated $2.5 billion worth of damage in North Carolina.
Goldenberg remembers both storms well.
"Fran, I was flying the landfall flight, so we were flying as it was hitting the coast near Wilmington," says Goldenberg. "Wilmington became the magnet for storm after storm for a few years and we saw from the plane the storm was starting to fall apart. The eye wall wasn't fully formed, but it was still a major hurricane, so we knew on the ground that people were still getting clobbered."
Three years later, in 1999, Floyd hit as a Category 2 storm, causing an estimated $3 billion in damage to our state.
"Floyd was a very strong storm and weakened when it got to the Carolinas. It was a flooding event, which shows you don't have to have a strong storm to have a horrendous flood event when you have hills and mountains, says Goldenberg.