Southern Lifestyle: The Mission of Hurricane Hunters
The crew aboard a hurricane hunter mission are all on-call reservists and work a regular, full time job. When they are called onto a mission, how do they gather information? In Friday's Southern Lifestyle Report, NewsCentral's Michelle Apon tells you how the Hurricane Hunters collect weather data while on the hunt.
Hurricane hunters fly into tropical systems or developing low pressure systems to gather information; to inform the public where a storm may be approaching.
There are at least five crew members, which include a pilot, a co-pilot, an Aerial Reconnaissance Weather Officer, a Navigator and a Loadmaster or Dropsonde Officer and they are on-call now that hurricane season is underway with 16 hour fly-out notice.
They fly on W C 130 J's that is equipped with specific weather equipment. Near a storm the aircraft can gather weather information on a horizontal level. To gather information on a vertical plane they use a dropsonde.
The dropsonde is a tiny laptop computer and global positioning system. A parachute is attached to it so when it falls to the surface of the water its gathers information every half second, ranging from barometric pressure to temperature.
When pilots are close to a system they fly a certain pattern. Lt. Col. Jeff Ragusa says, "Our 'X' pattern puts up about 100 miles away from the eye in four different directions so no matter where the storm is going to hit we can prepare people within 100 miles of the eye."
For tropical storm Arlene, one hurricane hunter team flew to the Atlantic basin on Tuesday June 28th, only completing part of the 'X' pattern before flying back to Keesler Air Force base near Biloxi, Mississippi.
There are 12 aircrafts that fly into tropical systems to gather data. The one featured in this story is one of ten that fly from Biloxi Mississippi and these mainly gather lower level reconnaissance data.
The other two aircrafts are from Tampa, Florida and they also work with National Hurricane Center in Miami and perform high level reconnaissance operational research.
The Atlantic Hurricane season ends at the end of November.