RUSKIN, FLA. – Tony Hurt was just 6 years old when a natural phenomenon caught his attention while on a cruise with family in 1988.
“I was out and about roaming around on the deck and I saw a waterspout, actually we saw two waterspouts. But there was one that lingered a little bit longer than the other and everyone seemed to be unbothered by it,” Hurt said from his home in Ruskin.
He recalled the spectacle caused him some fear but curiosity, too.
“What I knew at the time as a 6-year-old is that waterspouts suck things up. So, my fear was that the waterspout would suck all the water out of the ocean and therefore the ship would be stranded on the ocean bottom that would then be dry between Florida and the Bahamas,” the now 38-year-old said. “I was pretty scared, and I was kind of curious as to why nobody else was pretty bothered by it as I was, but that was what eventually sparked my interest.”
The experience brought out his desire to learn more about science and the atmosphere. It was during a time when he said there wasn’t much representation of African Americans in meteorology.
“There was one African American meteorologist, Ms. Vivian Brown, so at the time she was the person that looked like me on the Weather Channel, so I was inspired, I was like, ‘Hey! You know, there is a chance that I could be, you know, what she is one day,’” Hurt said. “At the time, I guess for me, I wasn’t really focused too much on the fact that there wasn’t much representation, I was just focused on the fact that: ‘Hey, I can do this, too.’”
Hurt said while he focused on achieving his dream to be a meteorologist, he also came to the realization of how his journey could impact others.
“Over the course of, ‘Hey, I can do this, too’ I can also be someone else that can then be in a position that she was to me as an inspiration to someone else,” he said.
Today, he is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service and is based out of Ruskin. It was a dream of his ever since high school.
“For me, meteorology is one of those things where -- it’s never the same from one day to the next. There’s always something new and challenging. There’s always something new to learn,” Hurt said.
As the country celebrates Black History Month, for Hurt it’s a time to reflect on the opportunities his community has today.
“I think it’s important to always pay homage to the people who helped pave the way for the progress that we do see today. But it’s also important to keep in mind, although there has been progress, there’s always progress to be made. Black History Month is a representation of this is the time that we can specifically focus on the past and how it relates to the present. And then we can look at the present and see how we can matriculate that into the future. "
As for his message to young students who are just starting to work on their life goals, he said it’s about never giving up.
“Always believe in yourself and believe in your dream. There’s no way that you can’t get without patience and perseverance.”