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Prepare now for hurricane season

Lt. Col. Ed Garcia, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, talks about the Hurricane Hunter mission during a Facebook Live session with the National Weather Service May 10, 2018. The 53rd WRS, an Air Force Reserve unit in the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, took part in the 2018 NOAA Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour May 7-11, 2018. This is the fourth year the Hurricane Hunters participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Lt. Col. Ed Garcia, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, talks about the Hurricane Hunter mission during a Facebook Live session with the National Weather Service May 10, 2018. The 53rd WRS, an Air Force Reserve unit in the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, took part in the 2018 NOAA Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour May 7-11, 2018. This is the fourth year the Hurricane Hunters participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Maj. Devon Meister, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, talks to school students about the squadron's mission and how they collect weather data for National Hurricane Center forecasts during the NOAA Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour May 7, 2018, at the McAllen Miller International Airport, McAllen, Texas. The 53rd WRS, an Air Force Reserve unit in the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, took part in the tour May 7-11, 2018. This is the fourth year the Hurricane Hunters participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Maj. Devon Meister, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, talks to school students about the squadron's mission and how they collect weather data for National Hurricane Center forecasts during the NOAA Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour May 7, 2018, at the McAllen Miller International Airport, McAllen, Texas. The 53rd WRS, an Air Force Reserve unit in the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, took part in the tour May 7-11, 2018. This is the fourth year the Hurricane Hunters participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Maj. Gen. Craig La Fave, 22nd Air Force commander, talks about the U.S. Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunter mission during the 2018 NOAA Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour at McAllen Miller International Airport, McAllen, Texas, May 7, 2018. NOAA has conducted the hurricane awareness tour for more than 35 years, alternating between the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts. This is the fourth year the 53rd WRS participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was May 7-11, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Maj. Gen. Craig La Fave, 22nd Air Force commander, talks about the U.S. Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunter mission during the 2018 NOAA Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour at McAllen Miller International Airport, McAllen, Texas, May 7, 2018. NOAA has conducted the hurricane awareness tour for more than 35 years, alternating between the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts. This is the fourth year the 53rd WRS participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was May 7-11, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Master Sgt. Troy Bickham, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron dropsonde operator, briefs the public about the squadron's mission May 8, 2018 at the Jack Brooks Regional Airport, Beaumont, Texas. NOAA's National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center has conducted the Hurricane Awareness Tour for more than 35 years; however, this is the fourth year the Air Force Reserve's 53rd WRS has participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week May 7-11, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Master Sgt. Troy Bickham, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron dropsonde operator, briefs the public about the squadron's mission May 8, 2018 at the Jack Brooks Regional Airport, Beaumont, Texas. NOAA's National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center has conducted the Hurricane Awareness Tour for more than 35 years; however, this is the fourth year the Air Force Reserve's 53rd WRS has participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week May 7-11, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

NOAA's G-IV aircraft taxis into its parking spot near the Air Force Reserve's WC-130J aircraft at the Montgomery Regional Airport, Montgomery, Alabama., May 10, 2018 during the Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour. NOAA has conducted the hurricane awareness tour for more than 35 years, alternating between the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts. The tour is part of NOAA’s hurricane hazard education campaign, coinciding with National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

NOAA's G-IV aircraft taxis into its parking spot near the Air Force Reserve's WC-130J aircraft at the Montgomery Regional Airport, Montgomery, Alabama, May 10, 2018 during the Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour. NOAA has conducted the hurricane awareness tour for more than 35 years, alternating between the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts. The tour is part of NOAA’s hurricane hazard education campaign, coinciding with National Hurricane Preparedness Week.(U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

The public tours the WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft at the Jack Brooks Regional Airport, Beaumont, Texas May 8, 2018,  during the NOAA Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour. The aircraft is flown by the U.S. Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron to collect weather data for National Hurricane Center forecasts. NOAA's National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center has conducted the Hurricane Awareness Tour for more than 35 years; however, this is the fourth year the 53rd WRS has participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week May 7-11, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

The public tours the WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft at the Jack Brooks Regional Airport, Beaumont, Texas May 8, 2018, during the NOAA Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour. The aircraft is flown by the U.S. Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron to collect weather data for National Hurricane Center forecasts. NOAA's National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center has conducted the Hurricane Awareness Tour for more than 35 years; however, this is the fourth year the 53rd WRS has participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week May 7-11, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

People line up at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Lakeland, Florida May 11, 2018, to see the WC-130J aircraft used by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron to collect weather data for the National Hurricane Center's forecasts. NOAA's National Weather Service and NHC has conducted the Hurricane Awareness Tour for more than 35 years; however, this is the fourth year the 53rd WRS has participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week May 7-11, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

People line up at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Lakeland, Florida May 11, 2018, to see the WC-130J aircraft used by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron to collect weather data for the National Hurricane Center's forecasts. NOAA's National Weather Service and NHC has conducted the Hurricane Awareness Tour for more than 35 years; however, this is the fourth year the 53rd WRS has participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week May 7-11, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Lt. Col. Jeff Ragusa, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, talks about the Hurricane Hunter mission during a media interview May 8, 2018. The 53rd WRS, an Air Force Reserve unit in the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, took part in the 2018 NOAA Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour May 7-11, 2018. This is the fourth year the Hurricane Hunters participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

Lt. Col. Jeff Ragusa, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron pilot, talks about the Hurricane Hunter mission during a media interview May 8, 2018. The 53rd WRS, an Air Force Reserve unit in the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, took part in the 2018 NOAA Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour May 7-11, 2018. This is the fourth year the Hurricane Hunters participated in all five stops of the awareness and preparedness event, which was in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

Hurricane season starts June 1 and now is the time to prepare. To promote this message, an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircrew with their WC-130J Super Hercules and a team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane experts visited five Gulf Coast cities as part of this year’s Hurricane Awareness Tour, May 7-11.

 

The Hurricane Awareness Tour, or HAT, which stopped at the McAllen Miller International Airport, McAllen, Texas; Jack Brooks Regional Airport, Beaumont, Texas; Baton Rouge Metro Airport, Ryan Field, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Montgomery Regional Airport, Montgomery, Alabama; and Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Lakeland, Florida is a joint effort between NOAA's National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center and the 403rd Wing's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron to promote awareness about the destructive forces of hurricanes and how people can prepare. 

 

“We enjoy taking part in the Hurricane Awareness Tour each year because it highlights the vital role the squadron has in gathering data for NHC forecasts,” said Col. Brian May, 403rd Operations Group commander. “What the Hurricane Hunters do strengthens relationships with our meteorological services, civil protection agencies, elected officials, and media partners that all work in a collaborative effort to enhance public awareness during hurricane season.”

 

However, even with a perfect forecast, the storms still come, said Ken Graham, the new NHC director who was the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Slidell, Louisiana for years.

 

“That is why we are here,” Graham said. “It’s all about preparedness; it’s about being ready for the next storm. Whether it’s a busy season or not a busy season it only takes one storm.”

 

The awareness tour was also in conjunction with National Hurricane Preparedness Week. NOAA partnered with FLASH, the Federal Alliance for Safe Housing, with the #HurricaneStrong campaign. Throughout the week, officials encouraged people who live in hurricane prone areas to know their risk due to storm surge, inland flooding and winds, to have an evacuation plan and disaster supply kit, make sure they have adequate insurance, and strengthen their home to meet hurricane building codes. They also stressed the importance of being a good neighbor before and after a hurricane and to have a written plan to ensure everyone in the household is prepared for the next storm.

 

Emergency response and informational booths were set up at all the stops to encourage residents to prepare for the upcoming season. The public and media also got the chance to tour the WC-130J aircraft, one of 10 specially configured aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and NOAA’s G-IV both used to gather critical weather data for hurricane forecast models. While the NOAA G-IV, flies at high altitude around and ahead of a tropical cyclone, the WC-130J flies through the hurricane at 10,000 feet.

 

During a tropical storm or hurricane, 53rd WRS crews can fly through the eye of a storm four to six times. During each pass through the eye, crews release a dropsonde, which collects temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity and surface pressure data. The crew also collects surface wind speed data and flight level data. This information is transmitted to the NHC to assist them with their storm warnings and hurricane forecast models in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific. During a typical year, the squadron will fly 60 to 100 missions for the NHC. 

 

Last year was a busy season for the Hurricane Hunters. The 53rd WRS flew more than 800 hours during more than 90 missions into 12 named storms.

 

“We fly into these storms to gather data to improve the accuracy of NHC forecasts and ultimately for people’s safety so they can make an informed decision to stay or evacuate,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Ragusa, 53rd WRS pilot. “We ask that people pay attention to these forecasts and heed the evacuation orders.”

 

While the tour ended in Lakeland, Florida, May 11, the Hurricane Hunters were preparing for the upcoming season by getting ready for the annual “Roll Out” mission in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, the forward operating location at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport.

 

Forecasters from Colorado State University are predicting that the season will be more active than usual. Whether the season meets or exceeds the predictions, the 53rd WRS will be ready.