Senior Airman Nathan Calloway, the Dropsonde Operator
A dropsonde, an expendable weather reconnaissance device
The Air Force's famous Hurricane Hunters board a WC-130J Monday evening for their mission: to track a tropical storm as it bears down on the Hawaiian Islands.
These brave airmen and women are the only people and the only Department of Defense unit who deliberately fly into the eye of a storm.
"It's really cool. Friends, family, they can't believe it. They say there's something that's gatta be wrong with me, maybe so,” said Senior Airman Nathan Calloway, the Dropsonde Operator.
"The really cool part of this mission compared to a lot of jobs out there is we're able to see what the results are pretty much immediately. When we land, were able to watch the weather center just like you all do and able to see what our data was and how it was given to the public," Lt. Col. Jim Hitterman, Aircraft Commander, said.
Every position on the team is critical to tracking the storm's path. Hitterman is in charge of the crew and responsible for taking them right into the eye of Guillermo. They do it to see the actual location of the storm, its movement, its intensity and to determine if evacuations are necessary.
"Hurricane hunters are important because we help gather data that satellites can't quite do it, central pressure, surface wind speeds and that data gets put into the forecast models and helps narrow up that forecast track," said Maj. Kyle Larson, the in-flight meteorologist.
The Hurricane Hunters drop expendable mini weather stations called “dropsondes” into the storm to collect data such as surface pressure, humidity, temperature, wind speed and wind direction.
Ten and a half hours, four passes through the eye of the storm, and 17 dropsondes later, the team determined Guillermo was moving north/northwest at nine nauts and should pass north of the Hawaiian Islands. The northern portion of the storm maintains its strength; however the southern half is now weakening. It still maintains its Tropical Storm strength.
The data they collect is given to the National Hurricane Center and plugged into computer models to show the storm's path.
As Guillermo gets closer to the islands, the Hurricane hunters may be doing missions every six hours.