The public is invited to come out and visit aircraft used to investigate tropical cyclones –as well as the pilots that fly into them at an upcoming “Hurricane Awareness Tour” which has scheduled stops in Houston, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana, Jackson, Mississippi, Tallahassee, Florida, and Marathon Florida from May 1 to May 5. Hurricane scientists will also be available during this special scheduled event which is designed to raise awareness of the importance of preparing for the upcoming hurricane season.
A NOAA WP-3D Orion aircraft and U.S. Air Force Reserve WC-130J will be featured at this five city tour over five days.
The NOAA WP-3D Orion turboprop aircraft is used primarily by scientists on research missions to study various elements of a hurricane, flying through the eye of the storm several times each flight. The aircraft was used in 5 missions in 2023.
Military air crews fly state-of-the-art WC-130J aircraft directly into the core of tropical cyclones to gather data that are critical for forecasting a hurricane’s intensity and landfall. The data are sent in real time via satellite from the aircraft directly to the National Hurricane Center 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.
In addition to the aircraft, staff from local emergency management offices, FEMA, non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross, and several local NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices will join the various stops on the tour. Also on the tour is the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), which has an ongoing #HurricaneStrong campaign to re-energize and inspire hurricane readiness by increasing public awareness and action before the next storm strikes.
“Last year, hurricanes Fiona, Ian and Nicole were some of the most deadly and damaging hurricanes to strike the continental U.S. Each storm proved how crucial it is to know your risk of hurricane hazards including high winds, storm surge and inland freshwater flooding,” said Mike Brennan, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, who will lead the tour along with several NHC hurricane experts. “Now is the time to prepare, before the season begins.”
“It is important for everyone to plan ahead; from individuals, businesses to local governments,” said Lt. Col. Kaitlyn McLaughlin, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron chief aerial reconnaissance weather officer. “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 Hurricane Season for both the Atlantic (U.S. East and Gulf coast) and the Central Pacific Basin (Hawaii) begins on June 1.