Zeta, Eta keep Hurricane Hunters flying

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kristen Pittman
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

As the above-average 2020 Hurricane season spins on, the Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunters continue to support the National Hurricane Center with their crucial data collection mission.


For the fourth time this season, the Hurricane Hunters and their WC-130Js, along with the 815th Airlift Squadron’s C-130Js, found themselves in the cone of uncertainty and evacuated ahead of Hurricane Zeta.


The 53rd WRS began flying then-Tropical Storm Zeta October 26 before relocating operations to Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.


From JBSA, the squadron continued to fly missions into Zeta until landfall as a category two in Cocodrie, Louisiana October 28. The storm quickly made its way east, stirring up trouble on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.


While the base’s damage was minimal, consisting mostly of downed trees and debris, the crews in Texas had to wait for the airfield to be cleared of the debris before they could return.


A mere 48 hours after wrapping up operations for Hurricane Zeta in San Antonio and returning to a battered Keesler, the squadron returned to the skies, this time to facilitate data collection east of Central America into Hurricane Eta.


This year is only the second time the Atlantic hurricane season has made it to the Greek alphabet and the first time Eta has been used. 2020 ties 2005 for most named storms in a season in the Atlantic basin with 28. Also, Hurricane Eta is the 12th hurricane of the Atlantic season, tying the 1969 and 2010 seasons for second-most hurricanes in a season behind 2005’s 15.


Despite some maintenance setbacks, the Hurricane Hunters were able to accomplish three missions into the quickly-formed storm before it made landfall near Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua as a category four hurricane.


“This has been an extraordinary season and although we have faced many challenges, it only highlights the importance of readiness and vigilance for the remainder of this hurricane season,” said Lt. Col. Mark Withee, navigator for the 53rd WRS.


As of its final mission into Eta, the squadron had completed around 120 missions for the season. In comparison, the squadron flew 190 missions in the 2005 season.