In the middle of the dreaded Atlantic and Gulf “Hurricane Season,” a WC-130J from the US Air Force’s sole squadron of “Hurricane Hunters” is scheduled to make a flight over the Atlantic on Saturday, in hopes of providing information to a potential storm heading towards the United States.
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, an Air Reserve unit that serves as “the only Department of Defense organization still flying into tropical storms and hurricanes,” has been tasked to take off tomorrow -if need be- in order to investigate a low pressure area off the southeast coast of Florida.
According to the National Hurricane Center, “Surface and radar data, along with satellite imagery, indicate that the low pressure area just east of the coast of southeastern Florida is becoming better organized. The low is forecast to move generally northwestward near or over the eastern Florida peninsula through tonight, and then move northward to northeastward over the Atlantic near the east coast of the central Florida peninsula on Saturday.
After that, the system is expected to move northeastward offshore of the southeastern United States coast. If the current trend continues, a tropical depression is likely to form by Saturday night.”
While this doesn’t sound like much, tropical depressions can turn into tropical storms, which in turn can become hurricanes.
With this in mind, the US government is taking no chances, and plan on sending the best of the best into the mess.
“An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft is scheduled to investigate the system on Saturday, if necessary,” the NHC stated in a bulletin.
Part of the NHC Aircraft Reconnaissance network, the 53rd utilize WC-130Js to assist non-military NOAA aircraft in the investigation of serious weather systems, which often include flying into hurricanes.
Activated in 1944 during World War II as the 3rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the 53rd was redesignated a year later, and went through a series of deactivations and reactivations before coming to its current incarnation as an USAF Reserve squadron.
Using the callsign “Teal 70” up to “Teal 79,” the five-person crew of each designated aircraft can face serious risk while collecting data. Their mission is so specific that there is no formal training school and all training is done in-house at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.
The average duration of a “Hurricane Hunter” mission is approximately ten grueling hours, with five to six hours on station (depending on the distance of the storm from base).
When not flying head-first into hurricanes or recruiting new crew, the 53rd perform weather recon and airlift missions.
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