In December of 1989, as the United States military prepared for its invasion of Panama during Operation Just Cause, freezing rain and ice storms began to wreak havoc across the southeastern United States. The U.S. Air Force was in a tight situation. It needed to get aircraft off the ground to begin the invasion, but to do that it needed deicing fluid to be spread across the runways of the bases affected by the freezing rain.
But since the Air Force didn’t have enough deicing fluid for all its bases, it would have to predict when and where the storm would hit. If it couldn’t do that, the operation would be delayed.
They turned to TC Moore, an Air Force meteorologist, to predict which bases needed the antifreeze and which didn’t. Since this was before the Internet, Moore spent hours studying radar and making phone calls, trying to predict the storm’s path. A military invasion hinged on his decisions.
“It was kind of a scary moment to have the colonel look at me and say, ‘Son, you’ve just grounded a lot of planes if there’s icing at these bases,’” Moore says.
Moore wasn’t wrong. The invasion went on uninterrupted, and Moore began his ascension up the ranks of the Air Force. The Air Force paid for his to return to NC State, where he had earned his bachelor’s degree in 1988, for a graduate degree in atmospheric sciences. Moore then was stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C., where he was integral in the evacuation of over 90 F-15 fighter bombers during the hammering rains of Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
The Air Force rewarded Moore’s efforts at Seymour Johnson with a ride in one of the saved F-15s (he got sick) and an assignment to oversee weather operations for the Air Force and U.S. Army at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Moore and his family lived in Germany for three years before he was assigned back to the United States. Over the next decade, Moore served at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina and the Pentagon, giving weather forecasts to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also coordinated surveys regarding climate change and rewrote policies to make regulations and standards more understandable for enlisted personnel.
After years of moving his family across the world, Moore retired in 2014 to an Air Force civilian job in the Raleigh area to allow his wife, Lynn, to pursue her career aspirations and allow his son to have his high school years in one place.
Today he helps integrate the weather forecasting systems of the Air Force with those of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. He also serves as a team leader for the N.C. Eastern Region Disaster Assessment division of the American Red Cross, teaching volunteers about weather assessment.
Through all the pressure of forecasting for the Air Force, however, Moore has never lost his “weather weenie” mentality (a moniker given to people who have an obsession with weather and the atmosphere), still holding a deep passion for weather and its idiosyncracies.
“In my current job I’m not really forecasting anymore,” Moore says. “But with the internet and all the National Weather Service resource,s I can still make my own forecasts and play weather geek whenever I want.”
— Christian Candeloro