Hurricane Hunters Fly into Dorian, Find Storm Strengthening Over Warm Waters of Atlantic

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crews assigned to 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron have been flying missions this week

Hurricane hunters flew into Dorian Wednesday evening and found that the storm was strengthening as it pulls away from Puerto Rico over the Atlantic.

(U.S. AIR FORCE) – Hurricane hunters flew into Dorian Wednesday evening and found that the storm was strengthening as it pulls away from Puerto Rico over the Atlantic.

Three WC-103J’s and one C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 403rd Wing departed Keesler Air Force Base this week for Curaçao to provide weather reconnaissance support for Tropical Storm Dorian.

The three weather crews, assigned to the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, have been flying missions this week, said Maj. Kendall Dunn, 53rd WRS pilot.

The tactical airlift crew, assigned to the 815th Airlift Squadron, is carrying extra cargo and aircraft parts to support the weather aircraft, he added.

As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, Dorian remains a category 1 hurricane 90 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Wind speeds are now up to 85 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 15 miles from the center of Dorian, while tropical-storm-force winds extend out about 70 miles.

The Hurricane Hunters have been flying “fixed” missions as of Monday night.

During a fix mission, the aircraft collects weather data such as temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity and surface pressure.

A WC-130J Super Hercules from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, aka Hurricane Hunters, taxis to the runway Aug. 25, 2019 at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. The Hurricane Hunters staged their aircraft in Curacao and began flying into Tropical Storm Dorian Monday night. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jessica L. Kendziorek)

Aircrews fly through the eye of a storm four to six times to locate the low-pressure center and circulation of the storm.

During each pass through the eye, they release a dropsonde, which collects weather data on its descent to the ocean surface, specifically gathering data on the surface winds and pressure.

Due to a lack of radar and weather balloons availability over the Atlantic Ocean, the 53rd WRS flies into the storms, gathers the data, and provides this data to the National Hurricane Center to assist them with their forecasts and storm warnings by transmitting the information gathered via satellite communication every 10 minutes.

53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron and FEMA staff discuss Hurricane Hunter aircraft operations aboard an Air Force Reserve WC-130J Super Hercules (U.S. Air Force image)

The 53rd WRS’s operations area ranges from the 55 longitude line in the Atlantic to the International Dateline in the Pacific. They also support 24-hour continuous operations with the ability to fly up to three storms simultaneously and with a response time of 16 hours.

“As of now we’re flying missions out of Curaçao, but will be repositioning to fly out of Homestead (Air Reserve Base, Florida) as the storm gets closer to the U.S.,” said Dunn.

“It’s like chess, this is the time where experience is crucial for planning and staging our mission. This is why reservists are invaluable to our mission.”

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