Hurricane Hunters fly into Florence

The Hurricane Hunters out of Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi have returned to the Coast after a very important mission to track Hurricane Florence off the East Coast. Many locations are still dealing with the impact left from Florence.

June, July, and August brought mostly quiet conditions in the tropics, and then on August 30th, a tropical wave moved out of Africa and quickly became known as Florence. On September 9th, nearly two weeks after the storm formed, the Hurricane Hunters began their mission into Florence.  Hurricane Hunter Pilot Kendall Dunn said, “The first night we flew it there was tons of lightning, it was very strong and would give you a couple of eye opening experiences, but that’s what we do and you get used to it over time.”

Over a course of five days, the Hurricane Hunters flew over 100 hours into Florence, collecting data, some of those flights lasting over ten hours, the initial flights finally starting to make the forecast of Florence a little more clear.  “Prior to flying a storm, obviously, we look at all the spaghetti models that are out there, and they were pretty much all over the place, basically from Florida to New York City,” said Dunn.

Tropical cyclones traveling over the ocean usually don’t have any direct observations until they reach about the middle of the Atlantic, that’s when the Hurricane Hunters start flying into the storm gathering vital information such as wind and pressure, which is then fed back to the National Hurricane Center to come up with a more accurate forecast. In Florence’s case that forecast was very accurate. “We improve accuracy up to 30 percent. I use the phrase we hug a hurricane. Basically you can see someone from a distance, like they look at hurricanes from a satellite, but until you get in there and really understand what that hurricane is doing you can’t make an accurate forecast,” said Dunn.

The storm made landfall about two miles from the forecasted location. While September started off active, the Atlantic is finally starting to calm down for now.  “It’s just business as usual until our next task and when the flag pole goes up we answer the call and go, that’s what we do.”

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