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Eye of the Storm

BEFORE THE FLIGHT Doremus prepares to fly into Hurricane Ida in August 2021. NOAA

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When a hurricane is brewing near the United States, crews of hurricane hunters fly into the storm. They do this to learn more about it.

Lieutenant Commander Kevin Doremus is a pilot. He works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). His job is to fly a jet through the eyewall eyewall the area immediately outside the center of a hurricane (noun) After flying through the eyewall, the plane was in the center of the storm. of a hurricane. Doremus and a copilot work with a flight director. Together, they guide the aircraft safely.

READY FOR RAIN The plane Doremus flies into hurricanes is designed to withstand fierce winds and rain.

NOAA

Scientists on board measure the air pressure, temperature, and humidity at a storm’s center. They measure the wind’s direction and speed. The National Hurricane Center uses this information. It predicts the path a hurricane will take and how much storm surge storm surge the abnormal rise in sea level caused by a storm (noun) A storm surge caused flooding in coastal towns. it will produce. These determine whether evacuations are necessary. The work of hurricane hunters saves lives.

POWERFUL STORM Storms such as 2016’s Hurricane Alex are among the planet’s most destructive forces.

GIZEM GECIM—GETTY IMAGES

Four Fast Facts

Want to hunt hurricanes? Here, Doremus helps describe some key aspects of the job.

Hurricane hunters prioritize safety. Flying into a hurricane seems risky. But NOAA pilots undergo training. Much of it is spent learning how to react if something goes wrong. “We will only fly a mission if we can mitigate mitigate to lessen (verb) Evan did his math homework on Friday to mitigate the amount of work he'd do over the weekend. risks to a safe level,” Doremus says.

HIGHLY DECORATED Planes that fly into hurricanes are often adorned with stickers from past missions.

JIM WATSON—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Hurricane hunters work odd hours. They monitor storms around the clock. If Doremus is assigned to a night mission, he’s in the air by 4 a.m. “Getting up that early can be difficult,” he says. “But we’re here to [offer] support 24 hours a day.”

Leadership skills are a must. “We need people to make split-second decisions,” Doremus says.

NOAA pilots stay busy in the off-season. The Atlantic hurricane season goes from June 1 to November 30. The rest of the year, Doremus flies smaller planes to support scientific research around the globe.