Hurricane Hunters, NOAA stress hurricane preparedness

Senior Master Sgt. Jay Latham, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron dropsonde operator, briefs students during the Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour May 16-20, 2016. The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircrew with their WC-130J Super Hercules, based out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, and a team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane experts visited five Gulf Coast cities as part of this year’s tour. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Senior Master Sgt. Jay Latham, a 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron dropsonde operator, briefs students during the Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour, which took place from May 16-20, 2016. The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircrew with their WC-130J Super Hercules, based out of Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and hurricane experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration visited five Gulf Coast cities as part of this year’s tour. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

The New Orleans public lines up at the Lakefront Airport May 18, 2016, to tour the WC-130J Super Hercules Aircraft used by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron to collect weather data for the National Hurricane Center used to improve their forecasts. An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircrew and a team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane experts visited five Gulf Coast cities as part of the Hurricane Awareness Tour May 16-20, 2016. The tour 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. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

The New Orleans public lines up at the Lakefront Airport on May 18, 2016, to tour the WC-130J Super Hercules used by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron to collect weather data for the National Hurricane Center used to improve their forecasts. An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircrew and hurricane experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration visited five Gulf Coast cities as part of this year’s Hurricane Awareness Tour from May 16-20, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- An Air Force Reserve “Hurricane Hunter” aircrew with their WC-130J Super Hercules joined National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane experts May 16-20 to promote preparedness at five Gulf Coast cities.

Before the hurricane season starts on June 1, the Hurricane Awareness Tour made stops in San Antonio and Galveston, Texas; New Orleans; Mobile, Alabama; and Naples, Florida. The tour was a joint effort between NOAA's National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center and the 403rd Wing's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.

While it’s been around 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,” Richard Knabb, NHC director, said at a news conference in San Antonio.

The public and media also got the chance to tour the WC-130J, one of 10 specially configured aircraft operated by the Air Force Reserve, and NOAA’s G-IV aircraft. Both are used to gather critical weather data for hurricane forecast models. While the 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.

“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, the 403rd WG commander, who attended the event with the crew. “It only takes one storm to make it a bad hurricane season, so prepare now.”

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