In the middle of a storm is where two Guam weathermen want to be.
During times of distress is when island residents see twin brothers Marcus Landon and William Brandon Aydlett in the news.
If the wind is blowing stronger than usual, or the sea starts to swell, islanders can rest assured the Aydletts, both meteorologists, are scanning their computer screens for impending storms.
They do this before informing a team of local leaders, media members and sometimes the entire island, since the 37-year-old Aydlett twins are usually the face of the National Weather Service Guam, which is stationed in Tiyan.
As the island prepares to exit a rainy season that’s been busier than we’ve seen in recent years, The Guam Daily Post features the Aydletts, who have helped provide the latest weather updates to Guam and the region for the past eight years.
Last week as Supertyphoon Yutu was spinning toward Tinian and Saipan, some members of the press were embedded at the National Weather Service …
Mesmerized by Mother Nature
The Aydletts grew up in Elizabeth City, a small North Carolina town, with their parents and younger sister.
It was during what was coined the “storm of the century” that the Aydlett twins, 12 years old at the time, got their first taste of wild weather.
The unique storm, a large cyclone, formed over the Gulf of Mexico in March 1993, and at its height stretched from Canada to Honduras.
“Before that, I hated thunder. I hated lightning. It terrified me. But for some reason, seeing all these trees fall down and so much damage and destruction – I loved it. After that, I was fascinated by anything destructive, nature-wise. Hurricanes, tornadoes, severe weather – I couldn’t get enough,” Landon Aydlett said.
He and his brother have gone by their middle names since childhood, citing “parental preference.”
Brandon Aydlett, associate bandmaster of the Guam Territorial Band, has had a passion for music since he was young. But early on, he decided to keep playing music as a hobby. In line with his brother, he also pursued personal interests in weather.
“I don’t hope for storms to come and hit the islands, but if there is going to be a storm, I want to be in the middle of it,” Brandon Aydlett said. “We hate the destruction, but we’re constantly amazed at the power of nature.”
“We’re like kids in a candy shop when it comes to severe weather. That’s just how it is. But, collectively, we’re all about saving lives and property,” Landon Aydlett added.
The twins in their youth worked on weather forecasting science projects for school. Teachers also guided them through high-level math classes necessary to study weather professionally.
The two attended their local community college before transferring to North Carolina State University, where in 2005 they graduated with bachelor’s degrees in meteorology.
“People out here can go to the University of Guam or Guam Community College, get those basic courses for a year and then transfer to a larger university with meteorology,” Brandon Aydlett said, advocating for more homegrown meteorologists.
‘A job in the Marshall Islands’
After graduating from college, for about two years, the twins held down a variety of part-time jobs while waiting to hear good news from the weather services and companies they applied at.
In the meantime, they waited tables, chauffeured cars for a valet company, catered to luxury suites and a gym, and held down some photography gigs.
The Aydletts got their first stint in weather doing surface observations for the Greensboro International Airport, an hour-and-a-half drive from their home.
The brothers would take turns driving and napping between shifts, but the Aydletts still wanted to do more with weather.
Brandon Aydlett applied at weather stations as far as Alaska, but the twins seldom struck luck landing weather jobs. They needed more experience, employers told them, so they decided to go back to school in the interim.
The two enrolled into NCSU’s master’s program, but the summer before the semester started, Brandon Aydlett received a random phone call from an Oklahoma weather company wanting to interview him.
“It was a job in the Marshall Islands,” Brandon Aydlett said, 26 years old at the time.
The next thing he knew, he was on his way to a meteorologist job half a world away.
Falling in love with Guam
One month later, Brandon Aydlett found himself in the West Pacific – a stark contrast to his snowy North Carolina roots. He left behind his family, including his twin brother, for the first time.
“They didn’t like it, but they know it was something I needed to do,” Brandon Aydlett said.
”It was the hardest thing walking from the unsecure area of the airport, going through security and knowing I’m leaving family. My little sister was bawling her eyes out,” he said.
When Brandon Aydlett arrived at Kwajalein, the largest atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, it was like moving back in time, he said. There was only startup internet on the island and, at the time in 2008, no smartphones or video conferencing capabilities.
“AOL Instant Messenger, that was it,” Brandon Aydlett said, recounting his humble, but homey, life in the Marshall Islands.
During his first year watching the weather in the Micronesia region, Brandon Aydlett had an opportunity to visit Guam or Hawaii for vacation, he said, but chose Guam “to be different.”
“In one week, I fell in love with Guam and decided my next job would be here. One week wasn’t enough,” he said. He took a job a year and a half later at the National Weather Service Guam office in 2010.
Meanwhile, Landon Aydlett continued attending college, breathing in fresh air and freedom apart from his twin. He said it was an adjustment when his brother left, but also an opportunity to stand apart.
“That was supposed to be our split,” said Landon Aydlett, who is younger by 12 minutes.
“I went back to school and told nobody I was a twin. I remember a girl asking, ‘Why do you always refer to yourself in the plural? You always say ‘we.’ And all my life it’s always been we. It’s been us,” he said.
He eventually left the master’s program and set his sights on new horizons, like his brother, half a world away.
“Looking at all the typhoons developing in the West Pacific and how they’re all moving toward the Marianas, I was like, ‘Wow, Guam is getting hit again, again, again,’” Landon Aydlett said. “I knew Guam was typhoon alley. I wanted to be there.”
So, he packed up and rejoined his brother on Guam in 2010.
“The rest is history,” Landon Aydlett said.
Contributing to the community
Over an exciting past eight years on island, the twins have forecasted everything from tropical depressions to supertyphoons.
But outside their isolated Tiyan office, the Aydletts have formed strong ties in the community, both active participants in community organizations and events that benefit Guam talent.
“We’re in too deep in the community … too implanted in too much, but that’s a good thing,” said Brandon Aydlett, who’s helped carry the Guam Territorial Band to success in recent years.
“People are friendly and welcoming. Being from our rural part of North Carolina, that’s what we’re used to,” he said about Guam.
Landon Aydlett helps promote the band in addition to being an outdoorsman, enjoying paddle boarding, hiking and traveling, he said – coming off a monthlong trip to nine countries across three continents.
“That’s the only downside of the job – it’s a desk job,” Landon Aydlett said. “I like working with people. That’s why I think we’re so busy in the community outside of work.”
Their public roles might paint a picture of their passions and priorities, but the Aydletts look for excitement every day in the little things that go on outside of work.
“When the media and cameras are going off in the office, it’s all serious and business. But once the media and cameras disappear, it’s like party time,” Brandon Aydlett said.
“Every time the wind blows or a tree tips over, we’re just like, ‘Wow.’ It’s a lot of excitement,” he said.
All eyes, ears on Yutu
One of their most exciting experiences yet, Brandon Aydlett said, was recently forecasting Guam’s strongest storm since the early 1960s.
“We were looking at Yutu and one of the new forecasts showed a (Category) 5 hitting right over Tinian and Saipan. That was the only time I’ve ever looked at a forecast and had like a shudder, just realizing how serious this was going to be,” Brandon Aydlett said.
“We were like a machine working nonstop, from the start of that storm threat to the end of it,” Landon Aydlett said.
“We’re best as an office in situations like that, when all the moving parts, all the individualities come together as one. We have so many people in here doing so many critical roles. That’s when we’re at our finest,” he added.
The National Weather Service Guam team of 12 meteorologists work 12-hour shifts during the evolution of severe storms in the region, sometimes more.
“You’re going to often see in these situations, when something’s about to hit the Marianas, people are here 14, 16, 18 hours – running ragged without sleep, dozing off in the conference room if they can,” Brandon Aydlett said.
The tenacious weather team does it for public safety, he added, knowing the catastrophic potential impending storms have.
“Supertyphoon Yutu really drove it home,” Brandon Aydlett said.
“Talking to people in the (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), you can hear the destruction going on in the background. They’re saying, ‘Our roof is blown off the house, can we go somewhere else now?’” he recalled.
“That’s why we do it. We’re here slaving away out of our passion for the job and the public.”
Their jobs don’t serve Guam alone.
New technology at NWS
The Aydletts have their fingers intertwined in everything from regional weather outlooks to international affairs, and often work with military officers, local government officials and media members.
“That’s where the joy for me is,” Brandon Aydlett said. “If people have a need, we try to meet that need. If they want a weather outlook or special forecast, we’ll do it.”
Landon Aydlett added, “We can’t always answer things accurately. It’s a forecast. Things can change. But we want to help people make the best decision for what they might be facing.”
New technology in the weather industry certainly helps the NWS team make decisions, the twins agreed.
From new satellite data streams to various technological improvements, the resources available on Guam are as good as it gets for modern weather forecasting methods.
Brandon Aydlett referred to an old satellite they relied on, which could miss a complete thunderstorm, he said. Now, new satellite imagery is produced every 30 seconds, enabling the team to put together more accurate, seven-day forecasts.
Still, “every forecast has its problems,” Brandon Aydlett said. “It’s just how well you can address those problems and deliver the uncertainty of typhoons to the public.”
“It comes down to the wire (for) some of these storms,” Landon Aydlett added.
‘Weather is never solved’
The twins invite island residents with even the slightest interest in weather to join their tight-knit team. At the least, consider meteorology as a career option.
“A lot of times, people out here on Guam don’t think much about meteorology as a career path, but we’re here for the island and if we get more locals here in the office, that’s good for us,” Landon Aydlett said.
“It’s a lively field of interest. It’s not all mundane desk work,” he added, some weather professionals committing their careers to research, teaching, forecasting or storm chasing.
“It’s all about improving forecasting techniques and how you can improve the whole field of science,” Landon Aydlett said.
Brandon Aydlett invites youngsters, college students and other intense weather watchers to stop by their weather forecasting office and ask questions.
“Why is the wind blowing so hard today and not yesterday? Why is the storm always in that area?” Brandon Aydlett said, listing some questions community members might have.
“Weather is never solved. The models are always getting better, but you really can never pin the atmosphere down perfectly,” he said.
For young people, he left the following advice:
“Investigate. Ask questions. Pay attention in school, math and science. Those are the building blocks to a science career. Be willing to work hard. Be willing to accept change,” he said.
Source: Google News : https://www.postguam.com/news/local/aydlett-twins-take-guam-by-storm/article_8d3ef396-036b-11e9-9aa6-477f159ee3ec.html