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Hurricane Hunters fly first winter storm of 2018

The U.S. Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron will participate in NOAA's Gulf Coast Awareness Tour May 16-20, touring five U.S. coastal cities to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for the upcoming huricane season. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech.Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

The U.S. Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew their first winter storm mission of the year Jan. 3, 2018, out of Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., in connection with a system off the Atlantic Coast of the United States. The Hurricane Hunters fly their WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft ahead of these storms to gather data used in forecast models by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, a part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech.Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” flew their first winter storm mission of the year today in connection with the system currently off the Atlantic Coast of the United States.

According to Maj. Brad Roundtree, 53rd WRS pilot, the Hurricane Hunters fly their WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft ahead of these systems to gather data for the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, a part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Meteorologists use that data in their forecast models to help better predict the paths of these winter storms.

“This data is essential for helping forecasters predict the amount of snowfall and precipitation that could be hitting the East Coast during these types of events,” said Roundtree.

Roundtree said the Hurricane Hunter aircrews fly anywhere between 27,000 and 32,000 feet above sea level, releasing instruments called dropsondes into the path of the storm. The dropsondes parachute down to the water surface, collecting data such as air pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and global positioning system information.

Hurricane Hunter aircrews normally fly winter storm missions between Nov. 1 and March 31, and can track storms off both the East and West Coast of the United States.