Hurricane chasers fly over Hurricane Sam> Air Force Reserve Command> Press article

The Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, better known as Hurricane Hunters, flew its first mission against Hurricane Sam from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, September 27.

First recognized as the Tropical Depression on September 18, the National Hurricane Center began monitoring the weather system located in the Atlantic Ocean, and within two days it was upgraded and named Hurricane Sam.

“With a storm in the Atlantic we’re five hours closer here at St. Croix, so we’ve moved operations here in response to the NHC’s published plan for the day,” said Lt. Col. Phillip Dobson, 53rd WRS navigator and mission commander. “We have been tasked with doing 12 patches every hour for Hurricane Sam with the first patch scheduled for September 27th. “

During tropical storms or hurricanes, Hurricane Hunters fly at altitudes ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 feet depending on the severity of the storm. For Hurricane Sam, the crew flew the first mission through the Eye of the Storm twice, or an alpha configuration, to locate the low pressure center and storm circulation. During each pass through the center, they released drops of probes, which collect pressure, temperature, relative humidity and wind speed as it descends towards the ocean surface.

A Category 4 storm hours earlier, Hurricane Sam had started weakening and was Category 3 when the AF Reserve hurricane chasers took off on their first mission in Sam.

“It was a disorganized system, not organized enough for the stage effect in the eye, but you could see an eye wall,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Rickert, 53rd WRS air reconnaissance weather officer. “From the data we gathered and compared to what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) team had collected before us, it seemed to be getting stronger. “

The Hurricane Hunters collected weather data from aircraft drops and sensors and transmitted this information via satellite communication every 10 minutes to the NHC to help them with their storm forecasts and warnings.

Other information they send to the NHC includes what they see visually that cannot be seen by satellite.

“As we weather the storm, we describe what we see and add that information to the vortex message and send it back to the NHC, so they know what’s going on in the storm,” Rickert said. “Some examples include the description of the wall of the eye as intense and irregular lightning, the intensity of precipitation, turbulence or even hail. This stuff tells them what in the atmosphere is affecting the storm.

Hurricane Sam continues to move northwestward, according to the NHC website, and is expected to continue this momentum over the next few days. Heavy swells are currently affecting the Leeward Islands and will spread to parts of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Bahamas and Bermuda by September 29 or 30.

To follow the Hurricane Hunters mission, check out today’s schedule, follow the missions on Google Earth, or visit the National Hurricane Center. For more information on Hurricane Chasers and the 403 Wing, follow us on Facebook, Twitter or InstagramRAM.