LAKELAND, Fla. -- A large crowd turned out Friday to see Hurricane Hunter aircraft up close, talk with crew and learn from hurricane forecasters who risk their lives to keep us safe.

  • Hurricane Awareness Tour made final stop in Lakeland
  • Public could tour Hurricane Hunter aircraft, talk with forecasters
  • Officials want you to be ready for Atlantic hurricane season

The event at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport was the last stop in an annual Hurricane Awareness Tour that focuses on preparing communities for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.

"I think (Lakeland is) a perfect site, because if you think about a situation that's even a little inland... It may not be the surge that we are worried about here in Lakeland, but it's definitely about the wind... the heavy rains," said Kenneth Graham, the director of the National Hurricane Center.

As the season heats up, the Hurricane Hunters risk their lives on flights that potentially save so many in a storm's path.

"We fly above and around the storms at 45,000 feet. That way, we can get a full vertical profile of the storm and the environment it's moving into," said Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Waddington, a Gulfstream IV pilot.

Data retrieved on the flights help forecasters better predict where the storm is heading and how strong it will be.

"I tell people in general, NOAA is doing research and building models for hurricane prediction. Somebody needs to go out for each storm to plug the data into those models, and that's what we do," said Air Force Lt. Col. Jeff Ragusa, the chief pilot for the Hurricane Hunters.

The tour also stopped in Texas, Alabama and Louisiana.