BRUNSWICK, Ga. – We're closing in on the start of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and with only three weeks to go, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is travelling to cities up and down the East Coast to show you exactly what they do to keep you and your family informed when storms threaten.
After fours days in cities from New England to the Carolinas, the hurricane experts, scientists and crew members wrapped up this year's tour at the Brunswisk Golden Isles Airport, Friday.
The visit's intent is to raise awareness of the impacts from tropical cyclone threats and why it’s dangerous to face a land falling storm without a hurricane plan in place.
The National Hurricane Director, Ken Graham, and Hurricane Specialist Daniel Brown were among the experts on hand to help educate vulnerable communities, like Brunswick, about hurricane preparedness.
But, the main attractions were two important aircraft - NOAA'S WP-3D and the Air Force Reserve's WC-130J also known as the Hurricane Hunter - both provide critical data to forecasters from inside of the storm.
The WC-130J is a high wing, medium range aircraft used in weather reconnaissance missions. It is one of ten such aircraft used by the U.S. Air Force Reservists from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, 403rd Wing, located at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS.
The special aircraft is designed to penetrate tropical disturbances and forms, the air crew flies directly into the core of developing tropical cyclones to record data critical for forecasting cyclone intensity, track, and landfall.
The WC-130 is a durable aircraft that can sustain an 18 hour long mission aloft at the optimum cruise speed of 300 mph. On average, one weather reconnaissance mission lasts 11 hours and covers about 3,500 miles with the crew collecting data as often as every one minute. At a minimum, at least 5 crew man the aircraft: a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, aerial reconnaissance weather officer and a weather reconnaissance loadmaster.
As for the WP-3D Orion, it is a highly instrumented aircraft from the Hurricane Operations Center which plays an important part in hurricane forecasting. Known for use in hurricane research and reconnaissance, the WP-3D Orion flies directly into the center of tropical cyclones to collect meteorological data about the storm.
The information collected is fed into numerical computer models to provide better forecasts of how intense a hurricane will be, and when and where it will make landfall. This mission helps forecasters make accurate predictions during a hurricane and to help NOAA researchers achieve a better understanding of storm processes.
An average mission lasts up to 10 hours as the aircraft journeys through the eye wall of a hurricane where howling winds, heavy rains, and violent updrafts and downdrafts buffer the turbo-prop aircraft before it penetrates the eerie calm of the storm’s eye.
Along the way, crew members drop Global Positioning System (GPS) dropwindsondes that continually radio back measurements of pressure, humidity, temperature and wind as they descend towards the sea below. This vital information provides a detailed look at the hurricane’s structure and intensity.