Hurricane Hunters monitor Lili

  • Published
The "Hurricane Hunters" of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, a Reserve unit here have been busy, flying their WC-130 Hercules aircraft into Hurricane Lili, gathering data about the storm for the National Hurricane Center.

The hurricane, with winds in excess of 145 miles per hour, was expected to reach the Louisiana coastline Oct. 3.

The squadron has an aircraft monitoring the storm's data around the clock.

"Once it becomes a storm, someone is in it at all times," said Capt. Rob Light, a 53rd WRS aircraft commander. "The aircraft pass each other going in and out of the storm."

Six people comprise a typical crew, including an aircraft commander, pilot, flight engineer, navigator, weather officer and a dropsonde system operator, or "drop" for short. The weather officer collects flight-level data on position, temperature, dewpoint and pressure every 30 seconds. Then it is beamed by satellite to the National Hurricane Center.

"The weather data we gather from Hurricane Lili will help determine where and when it will hit the coastline," said Master Sgt. Deano Harrison, a "drop" who made five passes through the eye of the storm Oct. 2. "The data also indicates whether the storm is getting stronger or weaker."

Data collected during that 10-hour mission allowed the National Hurricane Center to upgrade Hurricane Lili from category two, indicating winds below 111 mph, to a category four, reserved for winds over 131 mph.

Hurricane warnings are costly because of preparation, evacuation and businesses having to temporarily close their doors. Narrowing the warning area saves millions of dollars and decreases undue stress on those who live in the area, said center officials.

The Hurricane Hunters in the 53rd WRS will continue flying throughout the rest of hurricane season which ends in November.