KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
After a busy 2017 hurricane season and the 2018 hurricane season quickly approaching, service members from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, also known as the "Hurricane Hunters" know the importance of being prepared for a hurricane.
The 53rd WRS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center partnered together for another opportunity to promote hurricane preparedness through the Caribbean Hurricane Awareness Tour April 23-28, 2018. This tour, also known as the CHAT, is vital in raising hurricane awareness and preparedness across Latin America and the Caribbean.
"I just want everyone to get the message about the importance of being prepared," said Lt. Col. Charles Dobson, 403rd Wing Operations Group deputy commander, who served as the 2018 CHAT mission commander. "Because being prepared can save lives and if they leave without understanding how important that message is, then everything we do is for nothing."
Locals from La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico; Manzanillo, Mexico (on Mexico’s Pacific Coast); Panama City, Panama; and Ceiba (Roosevelt Roads), Puerto Rico were able to talk to forecasters from the National Hurricane Center; U.S. Air Force reservists from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron with the 403rd Wing, stationed at Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Mississippi; and the flight crew of NOAA’s G-IV during the CHAT about being prepared and the importance of the data gathered during storm flights.
The crew from NOAA's G-IV and members of the NHC also toured Montego Bay, Jamaica bringing the message of preparedness.
During hurricanes, the 53rd WRS flies the WC-130J aircraft directly into the eye of the storms to gather data, which is essential for the National Hurricane Center in forecasting a hurricane’s intensity and landfall. Data is sent in real time via satellite from the aircraft directly to the NHC for analysis and use by hurricane forecasters.
During the 2017 hurricane season, the 53rd WRS flew 93 missions over the Atlantic basin, including 15 investigative flights, for the National Hurricane Center and the NOAA G-IV flew 21 missions.
"I was flying Hurricane Maria when it hit the coast of Puerto Rico," said Tech. Sgt. Karen Moore, 53rd WRS loadmaster and dropsonde operator. "We were searching for the eye when we realized it was already over land. Knowing the storm surge was hitting the coast, seeing the water hitting land, and unable to do anything except wait until it re-entered the water to pick it back up was tough."
Moore said that doing these types of tours helps to prepare people for what can happen, so they can be ready for when a storm does hit.
While the central North Pacific and Atlantic basin hurricane season officially begins June 1, the eastern North Pacific hurricane season begins May 15. For the "Hurricane Hunters," who fly both the Atlantic and Pacific storms, this means their season can begin May 15 or earlier, it just depends upon the weather.
"Whether it's a busy season or not, it's important to plan ahead," said Ken Graham, National Hurricane Center director. "Because it is much easier to plan as if a hurricane will come your way, than planning during a storm."
People should prepare before a storm hits, get up-to-date information by watching their local media outlets for weather advisories and they can visit the NHC’s website at www.nhc.noaa.gov to see live data collected by the Hurricane Hunters.
"Remember that it only takes one storm to be a busy season for your area and being prepared is the key to weathering these storms," said Graham.