KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Hurricane season starts June 1 and to promote preparedness an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircrew with their WC-130J Super Hercules and a team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane experts visited five Gulf Coast cities as part of this year’s Hurricane Awareness Tour May 16-20.
The Hurricane Awareness Tour, or HAT, which stopped in San Antonio and Galveston, Texas, New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama, and Naples, Florida, is a joint effort between NOAA's National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center and the 403rd Wing's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron to promote awareness about the destructive forces of hurricanes and how people can prepare.
While the tour has been conducted for more than 30 years, this is the second year the 53rd WRS has participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event. The tour was in conjunction with the National Hurricane Preparedness Week.
At each stop of the tour, officials encouraged people to prepare now.
“The least we can all do is get our friends, our family, our businesses, ourselves, ready for the next hurricane,” said Richard Knabb, NHC director at a news conference at San Antonio.
NOAA partnered with FLASH, the Federal Alliance for Safe Housing, with the #HurricaneStrong campaign to encourage people who live in hurricane prone areas to know what storm-surge zone they reside in, insure they have adequate insurance, stock their emergency supplies, strengthen their home, know where to get information, and have a written plan.
The public and media also got the chance to tour the WC-130J aircraft, one of ten specially configured aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and NOAA’s G-IV both used to gather critical weather data for hurricane forecast models. While the NOAA G-IV, flies at high altitude around and ahead of a tropical cyclone, the WC-130J flies through the hurricane at 10,000 feet.
During a tropical storm or hurricane, 53rd WRS crews can fly through the eye of a storm four to six times. During each pass through the eye, crews release a dropsonde, which collects temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity and surface pressure data. The crew also collects surface wind speed data and flight level data. This information is transmitted to the NHC to assist them with their storm warnings and hurricane forecast models in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific. During a typical year, the squadron will fly 60 to 100 missions for the NHC.
“It’s really important that the public can connect the dots between the data collected by these brave men and women that go into a hurricane and their own personal and family safety,” said Knabb.
“This is an important outreach mission to educate the public, especially the children who will take the preparedness message back to their families,” said Col. Frank L. Amodeo, 403rd Wing commander, who attended the event with the crew. “It also highlights the mission of the 53rd WRS and how we work with the NHC to improve the forecast, which protects our homeland by saving lives and property.”
The tour ended in Naples, Florida, May 20. Meanwhile, the Hurricane Hunters completed their annual “Roll Out” mission in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, the forward operating location at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport. The team at Colorado State University, one of the top forecasting teams in the country, predicted a just above average season. Whether it meets or exceeds the predictions, the 53rd WRS will be ready.
“It only takes one storm to make it a bad hurricane season, so prepare now,” said Amodeo.
Keesler Air Force Base and 403rd Wing members can get preparedness information at http://www.keesler.af.mil/AboutUs/HurricaneSeason2016.aspx