Meet a Member of the WFO Caribou Staff!

By: Sonia Mark Flechtner as told by Richard Norton


Richard Norton, Hydro-Meteorological Technician/Associate Forecaster

Rich has been with the Caribou office since May of 1998. He was one of the first to arrive at our expanding office, bringing an extensive career working in weather from all around the world. Rich began his tenure here as a Hydro-Meteorological Technician and has since become an Associate Forecaster.

Rich hails from the Midwest, living in states such as Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa. He became fascinated with thunderstorms and particularly tornadoes while growing up in the infamous “Tornado Alley”. A few months before his eighteenth birthday Rich enlisted in the Navy, and coincidentally the Navy placed him in the Meteorology field.

He attended Aerographer's Mate, (or “A” School as they affectionally call it) a Naval School in Lakehurst, New Jersey. This is where he learned how to take weather observations, translate codes, and plot weather maps. This naval air station has a rich history, as it is the site of the Hindenburg disaster.

Upon graduating, Rich transferred to The Fleet Weather Center on Guam. For three years on Guam he worked the operations desk and learned how to analyze charts and maps. From this analysis he learned to draw forecast charts or prognostic charts, as we refer to them. Toward the end of his assignment Rich moved into the computer department, and worked as a computer operator for the remainder of the time. His keen interest in analysis continued, and he continued to work on charts and maps between computer runs for his own enjoyment.

From Guam he was transferred to The Naval Oceanographic Command in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. He spent 2 years there working in the training program department. This was primarily an administrative job, but they were also responsible for gathering basic equipment needed to build a weather office for training purposes. This is where he began forecasting and conducting briefings on a regular basis as well as filling in twice a week as a duty forecaster.

From Mississippi he was transferred to a rather exotic location, the island of Crete in Greece, where the Naval Oceanography Environmental detachment is located. On Crete he became an Assistant Forecaster and spent much of his time studying and preparing for Forecaster School. Working as a forecaster's assistant allowed Rich to write and publish the morning forecast package. (This was great preparation for forecasting school!) And he also had the opportunity to write a DD175-1, which is an aviation forecast for an individual flight.

After his tour on Crete; he attended Forecaster's school at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. For almost 9 months on Chanute he learned forecasting techniques and tactical oceanography. After Chanute he transferred to Adak, Alaska. On Adak he quickly qualified as a Forecast Duty Officer (FDO), which required him to be responsible for aviation, marine, oceanographic, and station forecasts. After 18 months he was transferred back to Illinois, specifically to Glenview Naval Air Station, where he also worked as an FDO before transferring back to Crete a year later.

For close to 4 years he worked as a FDO on Crete. While abroad he was fortunate to be able to take college courses with the University of Maryland through distance learning. One of Rich’s last foreign transfers was to Rota, Spain where he became a member of one of the Mobile Environmental Teams. For 4 years Rich traveled all across the Mediterranean, Red, and Arabian Seas, as well as the Persian Gulf. Most of these assignments were aboard various navy ships, while only a few were “shore based”. Before being transferred back to the States, he was sent back to Crete to support his old office during a medical evacuation. After his assignment in Spain he transferred to the Naval Oceanographic and Meteorology Center in Norfolk, Virginia.

Rich spent 3 1/2 years assigned to the center. He spent the majority of his time working as an aviation FDO, but also earned the opportunity to work as a marine FDO where he forecasted for the entire Atlantic Ocean including all of the various seas northeast of Iceland, and the Caribbean Sea. His very last assignment lasted nearly 2 years, and was spent aboard the U.S.S. Constellation. The assignment aboard the Constellation began with 5 months in the Persian Gulf supporting Desert Storm. It finished with week long stops in Fremantle and Sidney, Australia and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii before returning to San Diego.

After his tour aboard the Constellation, Rich retired from the Navy in 1996 and at that time the National Weather Service was not hiring. While searching for a job in the private weather sector Rich was hired by Murray and Trettle in Chicago, Illinois. Rich worked for Murray & Trettle for one year before being contacted by the NWS and offered a position at the Caribou Maine NWS office. Rich arrived at NWS Caribou in May of 1998, where he has since been an important cog in the development and expansion of our office. In fact, Rich inspired us all by going back to school in 2000, taking courses such as algebra, physics and differential equations, at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Rich has taken at least one class per semester, while working full time! If all goes well he will finish all requirements for his meteorology degree in the summer of 2005.

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