Hunting a hurricane with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron

The activity in the tropics is starting to ramp up and being prepared for a hurricane or tropical storm can be the difference between life and death. Over the weekend, the Hurricane Hunters flew into Tropical Storm Chris to gather data which will allow forecasters to keep you prepared.

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron’s Hurricane Hunters need no introduction. The crews latest mission took place this weekend with a flight out of Keesler Airforce Base in Biloxi. The goal of their mission was to gather data on Tropical Storm Chris before it strengthens into a hurricane off the East Coast.

The teams training allows them to take their famous WC-130 ‘Flying Jenny’ aircrafts straight into situations that most pilots would do anything to avoid and during their flights, Hurricane Hunters gather valuable information for forecasters at the National Hurricane Center.

Usually Hurricane Hunters stay at an altitude of 10,000 feet for hurricanes and 5,000 feet for tropical storms. When they flew into Tropical Storm Chris they were at about 2,500 feet and being that close makes the data that much more valuable. Hurricane Hunters Flight Meteorologist Major Ryan Rickert said,  “All the data that we’re collecting goes into what the Hurricane Center forecasts. The movement, the location, the strength of it, and it also goes into the forecast models and will make them significantly more accurate. All of it is important, even if it is way out at sea, it’s going to improve the forecast models in intensity and in where it’s going as well.”

It might sound like the Hurricane Hunters have a death wish and hopping on a plane and heading into a storm on purpose seems crazy to most of us, but these guys are some of the best pilots and meteorologists in the world and they’ve seen so many storms at this point that it’s just part of their job description. Hurricane Hunters Pilot Major Mark Siviglia said, “Experience is a great teacher. There’s a lot of things that we do and as you see more and more you can add those things to your tool bag and you can fall back on that experience as you see new things, as you move forward.”

Hurricane Hunters Pilot Lt. Col. Ryan Cesulka said, “Your crew members are very important to accomplishing the mission. You’ve got more people giving input and like I said, you learn something new almost every time you fly.”


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