Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hurricane Awareness Tour 2015

For the last two years I have attended Hurricane Awareness workshops and because of this I was asked to call into "Barometer Bob Show"back in 2013.  No matter who or what I read or listen to in these events the common theme is to be prepared and be aware of severe weather.   Everyone on the east coast still talks about Hurricane Sandy and how it impacted the general area.

So to continue my quest to learn, I went to the Hurricane Awareness Tour on May 4th which was located at the William J. Hughes Technical Center next to the Atlantic City Airport.  This tour was a unique experience for all ages.  Not only did you get to see the Hurricane Hunter Aircraft but you got to see equipment, brief presentations and lectures from the experts in tracking Hurricanes. Sadly I learned that this tour only occurs on the east coast every 20+ years (last tour was back in 1991).

In the beginning of the tour our small group was led to a hangar where representatives from different agencies were doing lectures about forecasting and the sciences of tracking tropical storms.

Staff from the local emergency offices such as FEMA, The American Red Cross, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and the Mt. Holly National Weather Service office were there to answer questions.  (all were great in answering questions)

After leaving the hanger, our guide directed us outside to where there were several aircraft that are actually being used to track hurricanes to keep the public safe.

The first aircraft I went to was the large WC-130J flown by the USAF Reserve 53rd Reconnaissance Squadron.  There was a long line to board the aircraft and I could not pass up an opportunity like this.  I waited in the line on a nice spring day. The weather was perfect for this event and there was a nice breeze that at one point knocked my hat off my head.

As I moved forward in the line, I was able to see the shear size of this aircraft. 

After some time I was able to see the banner at the back entrance of the aircraft.

I briefly met Weather Officer Leesa Froelich who was there earlier in the day to give a tour to school students.

 Image above (I believe) is equipment used to measure storms while flying through a hurricane.

A view inside the aircraft.

Next I walked around the NOAA G-IV jet aircraft.

Outside there was a display with members of the crew explaining the missions and equipment used on board.  One instrument is a Dropsonde (see graphic below)

"Dropsonde" by NASA - modified in PNG. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
"Dropsonde U.S. Air Force" by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman of the US Air Force - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
The crew member of the NOAA G-IV answered my questions about the Dropsonde and let me hold one.  He said they drop roughly 20 of these probes when flying above a hurricane. The data is streamed live (by satellite). The device measures pressure, temperature, dewpoint, wind speed and wind direction of the tropopause (an outer layer of our atmosphere where weather changes occur).  It also has a GPS sensor so it measure its location as well as the time of the drop.  I was told that each of these probes cost roughly $700 and they simply fall into the ocean.  The discussion about this instrument was very interesting.

This was really the end of the tour however as a bonus the USAF and US Coast Guard kindly had their aircraft on display.  This is a must see tour and a great educational experience and I recommend to everyone.

Credit for this blog story must go to.  NOAA/NWS office at Mt. Holly New Jersey WFO for NJ, PA, DE and MD.  Wikipedia, 

I also read from the National Hurricane Center website and their twitter feed about the tour.

Thank you to the National Weather Service.
Photographs by Pat Saavedra, author of this blog except for the Dropsonde images as noted above.

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