Keesler keeps an eye on Ernesto Published Aug. 26, 2006 By Louis A. Arana-Barradas Air Force Print News SAN ANTONIO (AFPN) -- As Tropical Storm Ernesto gets stronger and churns toward the Gulf of Mexico, Airmen at one Gulf Coast base are beginning to take notice. In a forecast report released today by the National Hurricane Center, weather forecasters expect Ernesto to become a powerful hurricane -- the first of the season -- by the time it reaches the gulf early next week. "Ernesto could become a potentially dangerous hurricane as it moves across the northwestern Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico," the report states. A preliminary track of the storm released by the center shows the storm could be on a path for the Louisiana-Mississippi coast. The same report states Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft are flying into the storm to gather storm information. The aircraft are WC-130J Hercules from the Air Force Reserve's 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. At Keesler, the lessons learned from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina are still fresh on the minds of people there, said Lt. Col. Claudia Foss, the 81st Training Wing spokesperson. When Katrina hit Aug. 29, 2005, more than 6,000 people at the base rode out the killer storm in shelters. But wing officials are not acting just yet, apart from keeping informed on the storm's development, said the colonel, who lost most of her belongings during Katrina. "We're waiting to see what develops," Colonel Foss said. "Our weather folks are keeping an eye out -- monitoring the situation. We have not had a CAT [crisis action team] stand up yet." However, the colonel said the lessons learned from Katrina will make any action more efficient at the base, which sustained nearly $1 billion in damages to Katrina. "We have our hurricane kits ready," she said. Hurricane kits include packed suitcases, extra food and other supplies and the paperwork needed in case people have to seek shelter. "Right now, all we can do is wait," the colonel said.