A Hurricane Hunter aircraft and its crew are due to land in Grand Cayman next week as part of a regional tour in the run-up to the 2017 hurricane season.
The visit is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s annual tour of Latin America and the Caribbean, during which they advise on their role in assisting countries in hurricane regions, according to a press release.
Tours of the Air Force Reserve Command’s WC-130J Hurricane Hunter will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26, at the General Aviation Terminal next to the Island Air hanger at Owen Roberts International Airport.
“During the tour, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, an elite United States Air Force Reserve Unit, will showcase the aircraft to the public and share their experiences of flying through hurricanes,” the release states.
Cayman Islands National Weather Service Director-General John Tibbetts said, “Military air crews fly the WC-130J aircraft directly into the core of the hurricane to gather data on the system’s structure that is critical for forecasting a storm’s magnitude and path.
“The information collected is then sent in real time via satellite from the aircraft directly to the National Hurricane Center for analysis by weather forecasters.”
During the 2016 hurricane season, the 53rd WRS flew 75 missions for the National Hurricane Center, including 12 investigative flights over the Atlantic. The hurricane hunters also flew one mission over the eastern North Pacific and 14 over the central North Pacific.
NOAA hurricane experts, including the director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Rick Knabb, and senior hurricane specialist Lixion Avila will also be on site to provide information about hurricane preparedness.
Around 300 high school students, as well as government officials, are invited to tour the plane. The public will also get to check out the aircraft, meet the onboard weather specialists and take photos with the crew.
Also on Wednesday, Mr. Knabb and other international and local weather experts will lead a public workshop from noon to 1:30 p.m. at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
“At the workshop, the public will hear about the latest developments in hurricane forecasting and the future direction of the science. Also, the public will gain critical insights into threats such as storm surge and tornadic winds which are also associated with hurricanes,” the release states.
The events are being coordinated by the Cayman Islands National Weather Service and Hazard Management Cayman Islands. HMCI Director McCleary Frederick said his office believes the Hurricane Hunter’s visit will help raise local awareness.
“If you live in an area prone to tropical cyclones, you need to be prepared, and that is what this Caribbean Hurricane Awareness Tour is all about,” he said. “We want the people of the Cayman Islands to be prepared and know what to expect if disaster ever strikes.”
Mr. Tibbetts added, “We are extremely excited the aircraft is making a stop in Grand Cayman, and we urge the public to take full advantage of this opportunity.”
The central North Pacific and Atlantic basin hurricane season begins June 1, 2017.