What it takes to fly with the Hurricane Hunters

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Hurricane Season begins Wednesday, and folks around coastal areas are getting ready for what looks to be an active season. Also preparing, are the world famous Hurricane Hunters.

Each hurricane season, the Hurricane Hunters collect and share invaluable data that aid weather services in predicting and monitoring these deadly storms.

"It saves people's lives," said pilot Jay May. "If they can evacuate with timely data, good weather prediction. If we can help with that, it's what we do. It's what we love doing."

It takes extensive training, sometimes lasting years, to fly with the Hunters. Each person on the five member team is tasked with a key part of investigating storms. Biloxi native Jenna Tucker holds the job of Loadmaster.

"I drop the weather instruments into the eye of the storm. Once it's dropped you get about two pieces of information per second to my computer. Once it's done, I'll look over the information and I'll send it over to the weather officer, who sends it to the National Hurricane Center," said Tucker.

The Hurricane Hunters unit is actually a reserve unit, which means crew members commute from as far away as Japan when they are called into action.  Weather Officer Christopher Dyke, who lives in North Carolina, said the commute is well worth it.

"We're able to provide two different products.  Number one, we can tell the hurricane center where the storm is here and now. And then, number two, we're able to provide data that they put in the forecast models to give the forecast models a better idea of what's happening in the storm, and give you a more accurate forecast as well," said Dyke.

Tucker grew up not far from the unit's home base.  She's known about the Hurricane Hunters her whole life, and hoped to join the hunters even before she joined the military.

"It's very rewarding. This is actually a very special job, so it's very unique. I've lived on the Gulf Coast my whole life. And when I heard of the Hurricane Hunters, I thought, that's just great. I never thought in a million years that I would actually be one," said Tucker.

While not every mission takes these men and women into the heart of a hurricane, the sense of duty these crews feel makes every mission exciting.

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