Hurricane Forecasters Embark on Preparedness Mission across Southern States

The Atlantic basin hurricane season begins June 1. With the 2023 hurricane season fast approaching, NOAA and the U.S. Air Force Reserve will host a series of events to help communities across the Southern U.S. prepare for upcoming storms this season. 

National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director, Mike Brennan, along with several hurricane specialists, will visit with residents in the local communities and discuss hurricane preparedness, resilience and how they can become “weather-ready.” Tours of the Air Force Reserve Command’s WC-130J “Hurricane Hunter” and the NOAA’s WP-3D aircraft will highlight how scientists collect data about hurricanes. 

The Florida locations of the local airports and local times for public tours are:

  • May 4, 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – Tallahassee International Airport Tallahassee, Fla.
  • May 5, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. – Florida Keys Marathon International Airport, Marathon, Fla. 

“It is important for everyone to plan ahead; from individuals, businesses, to local governments,” said Lt. Col. Kaitlyn McLaughlin, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron chief meteorologist. "And to help ensure public safety, we fly into harm’s way to gather the weather data and relay that data to the NHC, who can then provide a greater accuracy of forecasting of where a hurricane will strike and the strength of the storm, so the public has the most up-to-date information available."

The following experts will be on the tour and available for interviews: NOAA NHC director Michael Brennan, other NHC hurricane specialists; U.S. Air Force reservists from the 53rd  Weather Reconnaissance Squadron stationed at Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Mississippi, and crew members of NOAA’s WP-3D.

During hurricanes, military aircrews fly state-of-the-art WC-130J aircraft directly into the core of the storm to gather critical data for forecasting a hurricane’s intensity and landfall. The data are sent in real time via satellite from the aircraft directly to the NHC for analysis and use by hurricane forecasters. 

During the 2022 hurricane season, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew 109 missions into 13 named storms in the Atlantic and east Pacific basins, including Hurricanes Ian and Nicole in the Atlantic and Hurricanes Agatha, Kay, Orlene, and Roslyn in the east Pacific.  

The NOAA Hurricane Hunters, stationed at the Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, Florida, also fly missions into tropical cyclones to gather data to support storm forecasts and research. Their Lockheed WP-3D Orion and Gulfstream IV-SP aircraft are piloted by NOAA Commissioned Corps officers and crewed by NOAA meteorologists, technicians and researchers.

“NOAA’S Aircraft Operations Center Aircraft Tours”