Respect the weather: Meteorological technician serves Fort Novosel with passion

By Brittany Trumbull, Fort Novosel Public AffairsMay 21, 2024

Cindy Howell, Supervisory Meteorological Technician, briefs Warrant Officer Chayce Soniat, at Cairns Army Airfield on May 16.
Cindy Howell, Supervisory Meteorological Technician, briefs Warrant Officer Chayce Soniat, at Cairns Army Airfield on May 16. (Photo Credit: Brittany Trumbull) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT NOVOSEL, Ala.--Staying informed around Fort Novosel is simplified by following the right social media channels. One local Facebook page’s content is niched to keep the community prepared for all weather that crosses the Wiregrass.

Fort Novosel Weather Operations is run by a team of seven, when fully staffed, that rotate around the clock to keep an eye on the sky, radar system and more.  Cindy Howell, Supervisory Meteorological Technician, has been a stalwart to the weather team for over 21 years.

Contrary to the Lynard Skynyrd lyric, the skies in Alabama are not always blue. Howell and her team update their Facebook page with daily weather information so those working and living on Fort Novosel can plan appropriately.

“We are watching nothing but this installation,” said Howell. “I am not concerned with what is happening in Georgia or Florida. I’m worried about Fort Novosel within 15 miles of Cairns Airfield.”

Growing up in the local area, Howell developed a passion for the weather from a young age.

“I was a weather geek!” said Howell. “I always wanted to be a meteorologist. Even before I could pronounce the word meteorologist, I wanted to be a weather girl! It’s always just been a fascination for as long as I can remember. “

That passion grew beyond southern Alabama. After completing the ROTC program at Troy University, Howell commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. Upon completion of the undergraduate program, she attended the Air Force Institute of Technology earning a master’s in meteorology.

“After my six years on active duty, a position opened up in May of 2003 here at (then) Fort Rucker,” said Howell. “They had just made it a civilian operation and I was grateful to come on board, returning home but now doing what I love.”

The local area weather changes rapidly, but some events are more memorable than others.

“Hurricanes are always a possibility here,” said Howell. “Hurricane Ivan was a big one. For Michael we did nothing and nearly regretted it. We are just a small part but seeing all of the organizations working together, the whole installation, military, civilian contractors and get aircraft to safety and then get back to take care of their own families. It is truly amazing to see.”

At Fort Novosel, where Army Aviators are trained, an important element to the job is educating flight students on the importance of weather awareness. The weather team provides a one-hour weather block of instruction to each flight class.

“We try to mentor them and make sure they are getting what they need,” said Howell. “One day they will be making no-go decisions. It may be legal for you to go but it doesn’t mean it’s smart for you to go. You must respect the weather. “

If monitoring radar, educating flight students, and creating weather reports wasn’t enough to take on, updating social media has become an integral tool to reach the population on an immediate platform.

“I am often considering, should I post this? Am I waking someone out of bed?” Howell said, “But we are here for the military mission. There are a lot of people that live on this installation, a lot of people have soldiers that work here too that are curious. We try to keep things in plain language and easy to understand for everyone while pushing updates as they come. It’s somewhat of a balancing act.”

The weather team rotates on shifts to assure monitoring at all hours of the day. These shifts recently included the grand re-opening of Lowe Weather, and soon, Shell Weather as well. Due to the rotational schedule, there are times when weather comes in with only one person on duty.

“When storms come in, the phone will just ring off the hook,” said Howell. “A little grace and patience are really appreciated on those weather days. It’s a lot for one person but they really do a great job on handling whatever comes their way.”

Howell said she is currently living her childhood meteorological dreams serving the community here on Fort Novosel. Part of that dream is keeping the community safe and informed.

“Take the weather seriously,” said Howell. “We take it for granted until it comes up and bites us. The weather goes on and the mission continues no matter what. Weather is really fun, but we must always respect the weather.”

Follow Cindy Howell and the team at Fort Novosel WX on Facebook

Read more about the mission of Fort Novosel Weather at Fort Novosel weather team forecasts mission accomplishment | Article | The United States Army