Britta Culbertson (TAS, 2013) Flies with NOAA Hurricane Hunters

Britta Culbertson (TAS, 2013) participated in the 2014 Hurricane Awareness Tour on May 21 in New Orleans, LA and on May 22 in Tallahassee, FL. During the tour, NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter aircraft, a Lockheed WP-3D Orion, traveled to several regional airports on the Gulf Coast. Britta met up with the plane and its crew in New Orleans and then assisted National Weather Service staff and Hurricane Hunter crew members in giving tours and information to school groups about hurricane awareness and NOAA’s Hurricane Research in general. Data collected by airborne hurricane missions helps to better forecast the intensity of a hurricane and where it will make landfall.

Britta worked with Walt Zaleski, Warning Coordination Meteorologist and Program Manager for the National Weather Service’s Southern Region from Fort Worth,TX and Warning Coordination Meteorologists Frank Revitte (New Orleans) and Jeff Evans (Tallahassee) and several other staff members from local National Weather Service offices.

A highlight of the experience for Britta was getting to know Dr. James D. McFadden, who worked at the Aircraft Operations Center on MacDill Air Force Base in Florida for over 45 years. In his career, he has made over 500 penetrations into hurricanes. Another highlight was getting to fly with the crew from New Orleans to Tallahassee. She got an amazing seat – right behind the pilot!

“Until the Hurricane Awareness Tour, I had no idea that this kind of research was being conducted. It was such an honor to meet the men and women involved in hurricane research and learn more about the process. For example, I learned that through dropping a dropsonde from the WP-3D aircraft, scientists are able to more accurately measure and track the path of tropical storms and hurricanes.”

Dropsondes contain a GPS receiver and can measure pressure, temperature, and humidity as they fall from the plane. The data are then relayed to a computer on the aircraft by radio transmission.

NOAA has conducted the hurricane awareness tour for more than 30 years, alternating between the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. The tour is open to the public and raises awareness about storm threats and the danger of being caught without a personal hurricane plan. The five-day tour advances NOAA’s effort to build a Weather-Ready Nation.  

NOAA’s National Hurricane Center Link

National Hurricane Preparedness Week

A woman stands by a Hurricane Hunter aircraft.
Britta Culbertson with a Hurricane Hunter aircraft, WP-3D Orion