NOAA, Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters to visit Gulf Coast on preparedness tour

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In effort to build a Weather-Ready Nation ahead of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA’s hurricane experts will tour five U.S. Gulf Coast cities from May 7-11 to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for the upcoming hurricane season.


At each stop, the public and media can view the NOAA Gulfstream IV aircraft, which flies ahead of a storm, and take a tour inside a U.S. Air Force Reserve WC-130J hurricane hunter aircraft, which flies directly through the eye of a storm.


“Last year, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Nate proved again that the entire Gulf Coast is at risk from storms and that several hurricanes can strike in a single season,” said Ken Graham, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, who will lead the tour along with several NHC hurricane experts. “Don’t wait for a hurricane to be on your doorstep to make a preparedness plan, by then it may be too late. Take the time now to get prepared for the season ahead.”


The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, assigned to the Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, knows the importance of having a plan. The squadron had to relocate to Ellington Field, Texas, near Houston to fly reconnaissance missions into Hurricane Nate as the storm made landfall in Biloxi last October.


“Last year was an extremely busy hurricane season,” said Lt. Col. Kait Woods, 53rd WRS chief meteorologist. “We flew more than 800 hours during more than 90 missions into 12 named storms. We fly into these storms to gather data to improve the accuracy of National Hurricane Center forecasts and ultimately for people’s safety so they can make an informed decision to stay or evacuate. Being prepared and having a plan is so important during hurricane season.”


Staff from local emergency management offices, FEMA, non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross, and several local NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices will join the various stops on the tour. Also on the tour is the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), which has the ongoing #HurricaneStrong campaign to re-energize and inspire hurricane readiness by increasing public awareness and action before the next storm strikes.


NOAA has conducted the hurricane awareness tour for more than 35 years, alternating between the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts. The tour is part of NOAA’s hurricane hazard education campaign, coinciding with National Hurricane Preparedness Week. The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1.


Public tour schedule (2 to 5 p.m.):

  • Monday: McAllen Miller Intl. Airport, McAllen, Texas
  • Tuesday: Jack Brooks Regional Airport, Beaumont, Texas
  • Wednesday: Baton Rouge Metro Airport, Ryan Field, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Thursday: Montgomery Regional Airport, Montgomery, Alabama
  • Friday: Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Lakeland, Florida