It's about that time of year to begin worrying about the perennial threat to our homeland: the hurricane. If you are one of six hurricane specialists (or forecasters) at the National Hurricane Center, like James L. Franklin is, that worry is a full-time occupation. The specialists are responsible for all hurricane advisories, forecasts, and warnings in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific, a job Franklin has been doing for two years. Before that he spent seventeen years flying into hurricanes as a researcher with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Hurricane Research Division on Virginia Key, when he made nearly 100 hurricane-eyewall penetrations. Both of these jobs, he says, "as you may imagine, have their high-stress moments."
The best ways he's found to decompress from stress and chill out in Miami:
Out of the home: "It sure helps that hurricane flights are often based out of places like St. Croix or Barbados. Spending some time dozing on the beach or snorkeling does wonders. During the hurricane flights, I calm my stomach by feeding it junk food: Potato chips and chocolate bars are very nice. Chocolate-chip cookies from Subway are so buttery good and relaxing.
"After a long shift at the hurricane forecasters' desk, I take my daughter, who is five years old, swimming. Whenever I can, I get a massage."
In the home: "Ironically after spending all day looking at computer monitors, I relax at home by turning on my iMac, except that at home I'm playing Madden 2000 Football."
On top of all that: "Going into a hurricane, especially during the daytime when you can see, is such a thrill you very often forget that what you're doing is dangerous. The same is true of tracking hurricanes and forecasting. There is the thrill of doing something [you think] is important that helps get you through the difficulties."