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Hurricane Hunters fly Hurricane Lane as storm targets Hawaiian Islands

Tech. Sgt. Zachary Ziemann, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron loadmaster, checks the data from a dropsonde after it was released near the eye wall of Hurricane Lane Aug 20, 2018. The 53rd WRS provides data vital to the National Hurricane Center to assist the forecasters in providing an updated model of the projected path of the storm. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jessica Kendziorek)

Tech. Sgt. Zachary Ziemann, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron loadmaster, checks the data from a dropsonde after it was released near the eye wall of Hurricane Lane Aug. 20, 2018. The 53rd WRS provides data vital to the National Hurricane Center to assist the forecasters in providing an updated model of the projected path of the storm. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jessica Kendziorek)

BARBERS POINT KAPOLEI, Hawaii (AFNS) -- The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters are continuing to monitor Hurricane Lane which is projected to hit the main Hawaiian Islands the afternoon of Aug. 23. 

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squdron, based out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, began flying into Hurricane Lane out of the Kalaeloa Airport Aug. 20, to collect weather data for the Central Pacific Hurricane Center to assist with their forecasts.

When the Hurricane Hunters began flying into Lane it was a category 4 storm that was predicted to weaken to a category 3 with the possibility of the storm changing course and moving south of the islands.

Due to information provided by the Hurricane Hunters, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center adjusted the forecast finding that the intensity had increased and the path moved to a northern route with a direct landfall to Hawaii possible in the coming days. 

The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are data sparse environments due to the lack of radar and weather balloons in those areas, and satellite data can be incomplete. The data the Hurricane Hunters provide assists with the forecast accuracy as the 53rd WRS flies into the storm and directly measures the surface winds and pressure which assists with forecast movement and intensity models.

The Hurricane Hunters fly the storms to "fix" missions, which is where they determine the center of the storm, by using dropsondes, and the Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer, which is used to measure the wind speeds on the water surface, and then send the data collected to the National Hurricane Center to assist the forecasters in providing the projected paths of the storms.

While flying the storm on the evening of Aug. 20, Maj. Kimberly Spusta, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer, said the wind speeds had increased between the first pass through the eye of the storm to the second pass.

Hurricane Lane had strengthened to a category 5 storm the evening of Aug. 21, during a final fix by the Hurricane Hunters. This is the second time this year the 53rd WRS has deployed to Hawaii. They flew missions into Hurricane Hector at the beginning of August.

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