Hurricane Hunters Weathering The Storm

We are going to punch through that eye wall getting in and out of the eye. We are going to take a 100 mile look at that storm in four directions,” said Ragusa.

Hurricane Hunters are our visual guides to developing tropical cyclones in the warm waters of the Atlantic and Pacific. “The NHC put together a bunch of models. There are a lot of scientists that have worked to build these models. They need data to fill those models and that is where we come into play.” Jeff Ragusa

Jeff Ragusa is a chief pilot with the Air Force Hurricane Reconnaissance team out of Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS. They use the C-130 to fly in the lower levels of hurricanes. “At the same time, the storm is spinning around us. We are getting a 200 mile picture of what is going on in that storm,” Ragusa said.

NOAA Hurricane hunters are based out of Lakeland, Florida. They fly the Gulf Stream IV and Orion P-3 into hurricanes. “In the storm environment, we are looking for things like temperature, pressure, wind speed, dewpoint and those things.” said Cowan.

There is risk as a Hurricane Hunter pilot flying through these violent storms. The Orion P-3 goes flies through the most intense part of the storm. “The Orion P-3 going through a storm reminds me of a gorilla jumping up and down on your parents car,” said Cowan.

A typical mission for hurricane hunters last between 6-12 hours. The pilots fly through several storms from year to year ,but which ones stood out the most?

” I think this past year was the most memorable. Hurricane Irma went right over my house. So I was flying it until the day it made landfall,” said Cowan. “It was Hurricane Dean. It made landfall as a Category Five. Those can tend to be the most violent missions for us. That particular storm was quite violent and we were ready to go home at the end,” said Ragusa.

Hurricane season begins June 1st and being prepared is essential after a busy 2017 season especially here along the South Texas Coast. “Do not make me take my crew into something that is potentially life threatening to us as a hurricane for nothing.” said Ragusa.

In the winter, hurricane hunters fly into winter storms. AIr Force Reconnaissance Team fly into tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.