Hurricanes are the largest and most destructive storms on Earth. With hurricane season starting in just a few weeks, The National Hurricane Center's Hurricane Awareness Tour was in town on a mission to help residents of the Mid-Atlantic be more prepared.
It was field day at the Reagan National as the "Hurricane Hunters" spent the day talking about their mission and hurricane safety. School groups and the general public toured these special planes that fly into the eye of the storm.
Colonel Brian May is one of the pilots that flies these missions, "It's like riding a roller coaster through a car wash, it really is. You're getting bounced around, we can drop, we can hit a down draft and lose 1500 feet like that."
Hayden Buell was on a field trip today learning about the threat from tropical systems, "It's very important for the hurricane hunters to go inside of hurricanes and warn people, otherwise a lot more people would get injured by Hurricanes."
The scientists that fly into the storms collect data critical in forecasting the track and intensity of tropical systems that make for better forecasts and better planning by emergency personnel.
Dr. Rick Knabb is the Director of the National Hurricane Center, "The good thing about hurricanes is that they don't impact severely any one community very often, when they do it's really bad. and if you haven't prepared in advance and you're just wishing the hurricane problem away, you're putting yourself in a position of weakness. Wind and water are both hazards that can affect the Washington area. If you get a strong enough hurricane coming ashore, you could get hurricane force winds here, storm surges can be pushed up the Chesapeake and up the Potomac. heavy rainfall can cause flooding near the coast and well inland."
Colonel May appreciates the seriousness of what and his team do, "we understand the information that we're collecting to help with that cone of uncertainty and the model predictions that the hurricane center puts out..it's just too valuable, too important. Obviously there's inherent risks in flying, but we take what we do very serious...very safety conscience."
The Hurricane Hunters Have 10 WC-130s in their fleet. In the Atlantic Basin, as dangerous as the mission is, they've never lost one. The last time a plane was lost was was October 12, 1974 when a "Typhoon Tracker" out of Guam was lost. The plane was flying out of the Philippines and was lost while trying to get a second fix on Typhoon Bess.
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