Hurricane Hunters fly in for preparedness tour

Hurricane Hunters fly in for preparedness tour (Image 1)

Officials from the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center made a stop in Norfolk Tuesday to talk about hurricane preparedness.
     
WNCT 9 First Alert Weather was there and has tips on how you and your family can prepare.

The 2015 Hurricane Awareness Tour continued in Norfolk. The goal, to make sure you’re ready for hurricane season.

Officials from NOAA and emergency managers gathered all in effort to make sure you’re ready for the upcoming hurricane season. The stop is part of a broader effort known as the Hurricane Awareness Tour.

The group is traveling down the East Coast over the next week, stopping in six cities along the way. No stops are scheduled in North Carolina this time, but even still, the state is on the radar.

“I’ve got North Carolina on my mind as we head into this hurricane season,” explained Dr. Rick Knabb – Director, National Hurricane Center. “And as last year showed, even in a below average year, we had a hurricane make landfall on the Outer Banks. It just shows how vulnerable North Carolina is to hurricanes.”

While it’s still four weeks away from the official start of hurricane season, experts urge you to get ready now. They suggest that you learn if you’re in an evacuation zone and know your evacuation route, have at least a week’s worth of basic supplies ready, get insurance for your home, including flood insurance, and take steps to strengthen the structure of your house.

When a storm does form in the Atlantic, an incredible group of people are tasked with flying into it to gather potentially life-saving data.

When talking about tropical storms and hurricanes, traditional satellite and radar data only goes so far. That’s why the Hurricane Hunter aircraft and other tools are so important.

To get information like wind speed and air pressure from inside a hurricane, instrument packs are dropped into the storm from the Air Force Reserve WC-130 J Hurricane Hunter aircraft. As you might expect, it can be quite a ride for the pilot and crew.

“I think it’s more like the Tower of Terror like at Universal Studios,” said Keith Gibson – Lt Colonel, U.S. Air Force. “Kinda like the bottom falling out, as you get into updrafts and downdrafts, more that sensation.”

But it’s a ride that’s definitely worth it. Data is collected in real time from inside the storm and sent back almost immediately to the National Hurricane Center.

“Anytime we’re dropping those sondes, they’re getting that information just shortly after so those models are constantly being updated,” explained Gibson. “So when you hear that we’re flying into the storm, all that data you’re seeing, they’re seeing and they’re uploading it into the models.”

But that tank of a jet isn’t the only one that hunts the ‘canes. A much smaller aircraft, NOAA’s G-IV jet, is also tasked with collecting data on tropical systems, but in a different way.

“In this aircraft, we’re flying away from the storm, not necessarily in the storm like the C130 is, but we’re looking at the steering currents surrounding the storm,” explained Barry Damiano – meteorologist, NOAA G-IV jet.

The data collected around the perimeter of the storm helps the National Hurricane Center improve hurricane track forecasts. So whether it’s the Air Force aircraft or the NOAA jet, each has an important role in keeping us safe.

Hurricane season, and therefore hurricane hunter season, officially gets started June 1st.

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