KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. —
The Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based here is flying missions over the Atlantic Ocean this week to monitor Hurricane Florence.
The 53rd WRS is the only Defense Department unit that flies reconnaissance missions into severe tropical weather during the hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30, to gather data for the National Hurricane Center to improve the center’s forecasts and storm warnings.
The Hurricane Hunters’ first mission into Florence was Monday evening. The Hurricane Hunters departed here Sept. 9 to operate out of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, Georgia, for Florence reconnaissance. Florence became a hurricane Sept. 9 and will impact the Carolinas and Virginia late Thursday and into Friday, according to the NHC.
The Hurricane Hunters have completed two missions into Florence, now a Category 4 storm — including one today — with three more missions already tasked and two more possible, said Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas Moffatt, a navigator for the 53rd WRS.
Oceans are data-sparse environments, due to the lack of radar and weather balloons over those areas. And satellite data can be incomplete, so the data the Hurricane Hunters provide is vital, potentially saving lives and property, said Air Force Maj. Jeremy DeHart, 53rd WRS aerial…