Hurricane Florence edges closer to East Coast, Hurricane Hunters continue reconnaissance

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jessica Kendziorek
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

As the storm moves closer to the East Coast, members of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron continue flying through Hurricane Florence from the Air Dominance Center, Combat Readiness Training Center, Savannah, Georgia.

“The mission has gone very well, with 100 percent mission success," said Lt. Col. Thomas Moffatt, 53rd WRS navigator and mission commander. "Our crews have responded well to the round-the-clock taskings, and we will continue to fly the storm until it makes landfall."

The 53rd WRS, or U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters as they are known, having been flying through Hurricane Florence since Sept. 10. They receive storm taskings from the National Hurricane Center to provide critical weather data, which is used to assist the NHC in forecasting the path of the storms by "fixing" the center of the storm.

"We fly through the eye wall and into the eye and 'fix' the center of the storm, which is like dropping a pin on a map," said Maj. Tobi Baker, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer. "We use a dropsonde, which is an instrument that sends data back to the aircraft, to gather the data we need to find the center of the storm."

Having flown this storm multiple times, the Hurricane Hunters captured data showing a difference from the first storm models heading toward the East Coast making landfall between Georgia and Massachusetts, with the storm moving north up the coast, and the most recent models. 

These predictions from the data gathered by the Hurricane Hunters helped narrow that cone to hitting around North Carolina, and continuing to narrow the forecasts, which are now showing the cone making landfall near the border between North Carolina and South Carolina.

"By flying into the storms and locating the center of the eye, the wind speeds from the outer edge, the eye walls, and then sending this data to the NHC, we are helping narrow the cone of uncertainty, which helps save lives, property, and money for both the people and the states,” said 1st Lt. Garrett Black, 53rd WRS ARWO. “It is very important for people to listen to the warnings issued by their emergency management teams and evacuate as necessary. We take this job personally and seriously, and prepare our families for the storms, whether they stay or have to evacuate, and we hope everyone else does the same."