Public invited to tour U.S. Air Force Reserve ‘Hurricane Hunter’ aircraft
With the 2023 hurricane season fast approaching, NOAA and the U.S. Air Force Reserve will host a series of events to help communities in Mexico and the Caribbean prepare for upcoming storms this season.
National Hurricane Center (NHC) Acting Director Jamie Rhome, along with several hurricane specialists, will visit with residents of vulnerable communities and discuss hurricane preparedness, resilience and how they can become “weather-ready.” Tours of the Air Force Reserve Command’s WC-130J “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft will highlight how scientists collect data about hurricanes.
“Last year’s Hurricanes Fiona, Ian, Julia and Lisa were some of the most deadly and damaging hurricanes to strike the Caribbean,” Rhome said. “We are excited to be face-to-face with community members to discuss specific risks their communities may face during a major hurricane, especially the dangers of water and storm surge.”
The Atlantic basin hurricane season begins June 1.
The locations of all local airports and local times for public tours are:
- April 17, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Mérida International Airport, Merida, Mexico
- April 18, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Chetumal International Airport, Quintana Roo, Mexico
- April 19, 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. – Owen Roberts International Airport, Grand Cayman Islands
- April 20, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. – San Isidro Air Base Airport, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
- April 21, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. – Providenciales International Airport, Turks and Caicos Islands
- April 22, 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. – Rafael Hernández International Airport, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
“It is important for everyone to plan ahead; from individuals, business, to local governments,” said Lt. Col. Kaitlyn McLaughlin, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron chief meteorologist. “By relaying the data we gather from the storms to the NHC, who can then provide a greater accuracy of forecasting where a hurricane will strike, it ensures the public has the most up-to-date information to make the best decision; to stay or evacuate.”
The following experts will also be on the tour and available for interviews: NOAA NHC senior hurricane specialists Robbie Berg and Daniel Brown, and Dr. Nelsie Ramos from NHC’s Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch; U.S. Air Force reservists from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron stationed at Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Mississippi; and Ashley Lundry, chief of programs at NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center.
During hurricanes, military air crews fly state-of-the-art WC-130J aircraft directly into the core of the storm to gather critical data for forecasting a hurricane’s intensity and landfall. The data are sent in real time via satellite from the aircraft directly to the NHC for analysis and use by hurricane forecasters.
During the 2022 hurricane season, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew 109 missions into 13 named storms in the Atlantic and east Pacific basins, including Hurricanes Ian and Nicole in the Atlantic and Hurricanes Agatha, Kay, Orlene, and Roslyn in the east Pacific.
The NOAA Hurricane Hunters, stationed at the Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, Florida, also fly missions into tropical cyclones to gather data to support storm forecasts and research. Their Lockheed WP-3D Orion and Gulfstream IV-SP aircraft are piloted by NOAA Commissioned Corps officers and crewed by NOAA meteorologists, technicians and researchers. You can take a virtual tour of these aircraft here.
Maria Torres, NOAA, email@example.com, (305) 229-4404
Lt. Col. Marnee Losurdo, USAF Reserve, 403rd Wing Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org, (228) 377-2056