Hurricane Hunters: how they defend Florida and others around the globe

Hurricane Hunters: how they defend Florida and others around the globe

For the Nationwide Hurricane Middle to assemble the knowledge it must create its essential forecasts, a particular group of specialised airmen must journey instantly into the storm.

The women and men of the 53rd Climate Reconnaissance Squadron, additionally referred to as the “Hurricane Hunters,” are situated at Keesler Air Drive Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.

They’ve a novel mission like no different within the Air Drive, as they’re the one operational unit flying climate reconnaissance on a routine foundation.

The Hurricane Hunters present surveillance of tropical storms and hurricanes within the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the central Pacific Ocean for the Nationwide Hurricane Middle. The unit additionally flies different missions through the hurricane “low season” to research winter storms off each coasts of the U.S.

[Watch the Hurricane Hunters in action and discussing their mission]

The 53rd flies a ten WC-130J, also called a Tremendous Hercules plane, into the guts of the largest, most harmful storm on the planet. Lt. Col. Mark Withee is a navigator amongst a five-member, extremely educated flight crew that additionally features a pilot, co-pilot, flight meteorologist and climate reconnaissance loadmaster.

“We’re clearly based mostly at Keesler Air Drive Base; nevertheless, we now have the power to function from a wide range of areas. Our main forward-operating location is St. Croix within the U.S. Virgin Islands, and that offers us the attain for tropical climate that’s coming throughout the Atlantic,” Withee stated.

The squadron normally enter a storm on the identical flight stage, however there are numerous variables that make each flight totally different.

“10,00 ft is a fairly commonplace altitude for main hurricanes… for smaller storms we could go in at 5,000 ft, and there are specific investigatory-type missions the place we’ll be taking place to say, 1,000 ft. What specific angle we could enter a storm actually is determined by the place we’re coming from and the place the storm is in proximity to different factor,” Withee stated.

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Withee emphasised that the expertise of flying by a tropical storm is far totally different than a serious hurricane, however typically the roughest rides are on the smaller storms. Nonetheless, the crew has by no means been put in grave hazard, he stated.

“We fly collectively lots in coaching missions, and we now have procedures and methods which are constructed to fly these missions safely. I actually have loads of confidence within the people who I fly with and there’s by no means been these moments the place I’ve been in worry for my life,” he stated.

There are nonetheless inherent circumstances that often endanger the crew and their mission.

“There was an incident that obtained loads of consideration just a few years in the past the place a aircraft was enroute to a storm and lightning took out the aircraft’s radar, in order that they needed to flip round. We’re flying by a really excessive atmosphere and typically issues occur. We did have a window crack within the plane, and since we want the plane to be in high type, the choice was made to show round,” he recalled.

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Lt Col Mark Withee


53rd Climate Reconnaissance Squadron

Footage getting into the attention of a hurricane

Once they do encounter harm or different malfunctions, the skilled crew decides whether or not to press on with the mission, or return to base

“There’s loads of give and take and adaptability that’s actually the important thing to conducting the mission,” Withee stated.

That is the primary installment of a three-part sequence this week overlaying the Hurricane Hunters of the Air Drive Reserve.

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