Their willingness to head directly into the storm on 12-hour long missions helps land based forecasters keep folks informed and safe. The American Forces Press Service reports:
Three six-person crews from the 53rd and their maintainers and support staff deployed to St. Croix from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., last weekend, Air Force Lt. Col. Jon Talbot, the squadron’s chief meteorologist.
Operating out of the international airport there, they began flying their specially equipped C-130J Hercules aircraft through the storm Aug. 21.
Their missions gathered data using on-board instruments and small canisters dropped by parachute to collect details on location and intensity.
“The reason this data is critical is because, with satellites, you can track where storms are and get a general picture, but you can’t peer into the storm and physically measure what is happening at the ocean’s surface,” Talbot said. “That is the important piece of information you need to know when it comes to providing warnings to the public. The emergency management community needs to know what is going on near the surface of the ocean, because those are the winds that are going to come ashore.”
With about six missions already under their belts during the past three days, Talbot told the American Forces Press Service that the pace will increase considerably as Isaac moves west toward the United States.
“Currently, we are doing about three missions a day, but that will go up to four or five when the storm comes within 300 miles of the U.S. coastline,” he said.
The Hurricane Hunters expect to move west along with the storm, redeploying to Keesler Air Force Base to resume those missions beginning this weekend.
Officials say it’s too soon to know whether it will hit Tampa, site of next week’s Republican National Convention. Northcom has a team deployed there to support the Secret Service during the convention.