BARBERS POINT KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters missions into Hurricane Lane, a Category 4, have been cancelled for today so they can move out of the storm’s path, which is projected to hit the main Hawaiian Islands Thursday afternoon.
The 53rd WRS, based out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, began flying into Hurricane Lane out of the Kalaeloa Airport Monday to collect weather data for the Central Pacific Hurricane Center to assist with their forecasts.
When the Hurricane Hunters began flying into Lane it was a Category 4 storm that was predicted to weaken to a Category 3 with the possibility of the storm changing course and moving south of the islands.
Due to information provided by the Hurricane Hunters, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center adjusted the forecast finding that the intensity had increased and the path moved to a northern route with a direct landfall to Hawaii possible later this week.
The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are data sparse environments due to the lack of radar and weather balloons in those areas and satellite data can be incomplete. The data the Hurricane Hunters provide assists with the forecast accuracy as the 53rd WRS flies into the storm and directly measures the surface winds and pressure which assists with forecast movement and intensity models.
The Hurricane Hunters fly the storms to "fix" missions, which is where they determine the center of the storm, by using dropsondes, and the Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer, which is used to measure the wind speeds on the water surface, and then send the data collected to the National Hurricane Center to assist the forecasters in providing the projected paths of the storms.
While flying the storm Monday evening, Maj. Kimberly Spusta, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer, said the wind speeds had increased between the first pass through the eye of the storm to the second pass.
Hurricane Lane had strengthened to a category 5 storm Tuesday evening during a final fix by the Hurricane Hunters. This is the second time this year the 53rd WRS has deployed to Hawaii. They flew missions into Hurricane Hector at the beginning of August.