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Hurricane Hunters prepare the Caribbean

More than thirteen-thousand residents tour a WC-130J Super Hercules Aircraft in Mérida, Mexico during the Caribbean Hurricane Awareness Tour April 15, 2017. The event was hosted by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in order to help people prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Shelton Sherrill)

Residents tour a WC-130J Super Hercules Aircraft in Mérida, Mexico, during the Caribbean Hurricane Awareness Tour April 15, 2017. The event, which attracted more than 13,000 local residents, was hosted by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in order to help people prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Shelton Sherrill)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- More than 20,000 people attended the Caribbean Hurricane Awareness Tour hosted April 24-29, 2017 by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The annual tour is held to share the mission of the Hurricane Hunters and raise hurricane awareness across Latin America and the Caribbean, said Maj. Brad Roundtree, the 53rd WRS aircraft commander for the tour.

The Hurricane Hunters traveled with officials from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, which included Dr. Rick Knabb, the NHC director, Lixion Avila, an NHC senior hurricane specialist, and John Pavone, the chief of aerial reconnaissance coordination. The group stopped at five locations including Mérida, Mexico; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Grand Cayman, Turk and Caicos; and Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

During the CHAT, the public toured one of 10 WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft flown by the 53rd WRS. The aircrew gave demonstrations of the equipment used to collect storm data and explained how the data is used, said Maj. Kimberly Spusta, a 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer.

“Once the data is collected, it is given to the NHC in real-time via satellite from the plane,” said Spusta. That information is then inserted into a model that generates storm forecasts and allows local governments to issue proper and timely weather advisories and warnings to the public.

“Some people see that we do a hurricane awareness tour in the Caribbean and may think it’s just an airshow, but it’s so much more than that,” said Spusta. “We are really getting into communities that don't have access to hurricane readiness information, and that is very rewarding.”

The Hurricane Hunters and NHC officials also took part in several interviews with local media, attended press conferences with local government officials, and spoke to the public on the importance of being prepared before a storm comes, said Roundtree.

The question most people asked was, “What is it like to fly into a hurricane” Roundtree described it as a roller coaster ride through a car wash. However, he said the crews focused on promoting the importance of being prepared and having a plan before a storm comes.

“Whenever those watches and warning go out, we have the proven data that a storm will hit the area,” he said.

“Several Caribbean countries were severely damaged last year by Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Otto,” Knabb said. “Another season is just weeks away, and we have to be prepared. Simply hoping one of these storms won't hit your community is not a good plan. It doesn't matter how many hurricanes there are this season, it only takes one to hit your area.”
People who want to stay prepared and get more information before a storm hits should watch their local media outlets for weather advisories. Visit the NHC’s website at www.nhc.noaa.gov to see live data collected by the Hurricane Hunters.

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