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NOAA & Air Force Reserve ‘Hurricane Hunters’ to visit East Coast on preparedness tour

Public and media invited to tour aircraft
April 29, 2019
Visitors line up for tours aboard the U.S. Air Force WC-130J in Galveston, Texas, on May 18, 2016.

In an effort to build a Weather-Ready Nation ahead of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA hurricane experts will tour five eastern U.S. cities from May 6-10 to raise awareness of the importance of preparing for the upcoming hurricane season.

At each stop, the public and media can take a tour of the “hurricane hunter” aircraft that fly around and directly into the eye of a storm — a NOAA WP-3D Orion aircraft and a U.S. Air Force Reserve WC-130J aircraft.

Public tour schedule (2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT):

“Last year, hurricanes Florence and Michael proved how important it is to know your risk to each of the hurricane hazards of storm surge, high winds, and inland freshwater flooding,” said Ken Graham, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, who will lead the tour along with several NHC hurricane experts. “It’s too late to prepare if a hurricane is already on your doorstep. The time to do it is now before the season begins.”

NOAA operates two WP-3D turboprop aircraft in its Hurricane Hunter fleet.
NOAA operates two WP-3D turboprop aircraft in its Hurricane Hunter fleet. (NOAA)

Military aircrews 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 2018 hurricane season, the 53rd WRS flew 43 missions over the Atlantic basin.

“To help ensure public safety, we fly into harm’s way to gather weather data that assists NHC forecasters with the storm track and intensity forecasts, so the public has the most up-to-date information,” said Lt. Col. Kaitlyn Woods, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron chief meteorologist. “We ask the public to plan ahead, listen and watch for weather advisories, as well as heed the advice of local governments and disaster agencies.”

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. It flew 10 missions in 2018.

Staff from local National Weather Service forecast offices and local emergency management offices, FEMA, and non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homesoffsite link (FLASH) will join the various stops on the tour.

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. The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1.

Media contacts

Dennis Feltgen, NOAA, 305-229-4404, c: 305-433-1933
Lt. Col. Marnee Losurdo, USAF Reserve, 403rd Wing Public Affairs,
228-377-2056