NOAA & Air Force Reserve ‘Hurricane Hunters’ to visit Gulf of Mexico on preparedness tour

Public and media invited to tour U.S. Air Force Reserve ‘Hurricane Hunter’ aircraft

UPDATED: May 4, 2023. ATTENTION: The May 5 tour stop in Marathon, Florida, has been CANCELED. We regret any inconvenience.
Photo showing families and students lining up to tour NOAA’s P-3 Hurricane Hunter aircraft during the 2019 Hurricane Awareness, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Attendees line up to tour NOAA’s WP-3D Hurricane Hunter aircraft during the 2019 Hurricane Awareness Tour in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The turboprop aircraft is used for hurricane reconnaissance and research. (Image credit: NOAA)

The public and media have a rare opportunity to tour “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft — which fly directly into the eye of hurricanes — during stops around the Gulf of Mexico from May 1 to May 5, 2023. Hurricane scientists and pilots will bring a NOAA WP-3D Orion aircraft and a U.S. Air Force Reserve WC-130J aircraft to five cities to raise awareness of the importance of preparing for the upcoming hurricane season. The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1.

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 offsite link (FLASH), which has an ongoing #HurricaneStrong offsite link campaign to re-energize and inspire hurricane readiness by increasing public awareness and action before the next storm strikes.

Media and public tours:

2023 Hurricane Awareness Tour: May 1 - Houston, TX - Ellington Field. May 2 -  New Orleans, LA - Lakefront Airport. May 3 - Jackson, MS - Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport. May 4 - Tallahassee, FL - Tallahassee International Airport.
(Image credit: NOAA's National Weather Service)

“Last year, hurricanes Fiona, Ian and Nicole were some of the most deadly and damaging hurricanes to strike the continental U.S. Each storm proved how crucial it is to know your risk of hurricane hazards including high winds, storm surge and inland freshwater flooding,” said Mike Brennan, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, who will lead the tour along with several NHC hurricane experts. “Now is the time to prepare, before the season begins.” 

The NOAA WP-3D Orion turboprop aircraft is used primarily by scientists on research missions to study various elements of a hurricane, flying through the eye of the storm several times each flight. The aircraft was used in 5 missions in 2023.

Military air crews fly state-of-the-art WC-130J aircraft directly into the core of tropical cyclones to gather data that are critical for forecasting a hurricane’s intensity and landfall. The data are sent in real time via satellite from the aircraft directly to the National Hurricane Center 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.  

“It is important for everyone to plan ahead; from individuals, businesses to local governments,” said Lt. Col. Kaitlyn McLaughlin, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron chief aerial reconnaissance weather officer. "And to help ensure public safety, we fly into harm’s way to gather the weather data and relay that data to the NHC, who can then provide a greater accuracy of forecasting of where a hurricane will strike and the strength of the storm, so the public has the most up-to-date information available."

NOAA has conducted the hurricane awareness tour for almost 40 years, alternating between the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coast states. The tour is part of NOAA’s hurricane hazard education campaign, coinciding with National Hurricane Preparedness Week



Media contacts

Maria Torres, NOAA, , 305-229-4404 or 305-433-1933 (cell)

Lt. Col. Marnee Losurdo, USAF Reserve,  403rd Wing Public Affairs, , 228-377-2056