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Hurricane Hunters fly into Tropical Storm Bertha

Members of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunters began flying through Tropical Storm Bertha July 31, 2014, over the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Hunter aircrews and other 403rd Wing members deploy to several locations in the United States and Pacific and Atlantic Oceans to fly storm missions during the hurricane season, which officially starts June 1 and ends November 30 each year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

Members of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunters began flying through Tropical Storm Bertha July 31, 2014, over the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Hunter aircrews and other 403rd Wing members deploy to several locations in the United States and Pacific and Atlantic Oceans to fly storm missions during the hurricane season, which officially starts June 1 and ends November 30 each year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- Aircrew members from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunters have been flying data-gathering missions into Tropical Storm Bertha out of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to Lt. Col. Jon Talbot, the 53rd WRS chief meteorologist, the Hurricane Hunters flew their first low-level investigation into the storm July 31, to see if the winds on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean were starting to rotate in a circular pattern, which would indicate the storm was becoming more organized. Once they determine that, the Hurricane Hunters use further flights in the squadron's WC-130J aircraft to locate the low-pressure center of the storm.

"Our job is to provide the operational, day-to-day data collection for the National Hurricane Center," Talbot said. "So it's real-time important information that the hurricane forecaster uses almost like now-casting for projecting future events of a storm."

The Hurricane Hunters attempt to fly two six-hour storm fixes to determine the center of the storm. During the flights, the aircrews constantly transmit the information they gather via satellite to the National Hurricane Center, which uses the information to generate projected storm paths. As of Aug. 2, Bertha was approximately 100 miles southwest of St. Croix, with sustained winds of 45 mph.

According to the National Hurricane Center website (www.nhc.noaa.gov), Bertha is projected to curve north and head back out into the Atlantic Ocean during the middle of the week.

"It's very important information that we're trying to collect for the forecast, so we're proud to do it," Talbot said.

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