'Hurricane Hunter' aircraft flies into winter storm heading for SC
By WBTW News Staff
The path of the Hurricane Hunter on Tuesday (right) and an actual plane they use (left). --- CLICK THROUGH SLIDESHOW FOR LARGER IMAGES Photo from US Air Force
FLORENCE, SC -
Hurricane Hunters are well known to fly during the tropical weather season – but sometimes they check out major winter storms.
WBTW Meteorologist Frank Johnson said that a flight Tuesday afternoon checked out the winter storm that is gathering along the Gulf Coast and is supposed to hit the Pee Dee on Wednesday.
"This does not happen too often... A hurricane hunter aircraft is gathering information over the Gulf of Mexico ahead of the big winter storm!" Johnson noted.
The Hurricane Hunters are a combined effort between the National Weather Service and the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, which is actually known as the Hurricane Hunters.
Each year, to combat the persistent threat of severe winter weather, the 53rd WRS, fly out over the icy waters of the U.S. East and West coasts as well as the Gulf of Mexico in order to collect, with dropsondes, barometric pressure, temperature and precipitation data.
The official Winter-Storm season for the Hurricane Hunters begins in January and lasts through March. Typically, the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico winter-storm missions are launched from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.
During weather reconnaissance missions, the 53rd provides the National Weather Service with additional observations in areas of uncertainty on storm-tracking models. Areas of uncertainty occur in the tracking models due to the lack of weather data collection devices in the middle of the ocean.
"The data stream is low out over the ocean; there are not any data points to collect from like we have on land. You can use satellite data, but it will usually only give you so much information," said Talbot.
Watching the news each night during a winter storm shows the deadliness of the storm and also the costs associated. Winter storms can last for weeks and dump a lot of expenses on the American population that ranges from snow plowing, destroyed crops and livestock to infrastructure damage.
"Winter storms, on average, kill more Americans each year than hurricanes do," said Lt. Col. Jon Talbot, the squadron's Chief Meteorologist. "On average, an inch of snow removal for a city like New York City, can cost one million dollars. If the data we collect provides the national weather service with a more accurate prediction, cities can be better prepared lives and property can be saved," said Talbot.
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