Hurricane season picks up; Hurricane Hunters up to taskings

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

As the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season nears its peak period for activity, the Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunters at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., have seen a surge in operations with Tropical Storm Fred and Hurricane Grace.

The squadron began flying what was then Invest 94L near the Lesser Antilles, Aug. 10, after relocating to Homestead Air Reserve Base in South Florida the day before.

Due to environmental factors as well as interaction with Caribbean nations, Fred struggled to develop, initially becoming a short-lived tropical storm before the mountains of the Dominican Republic slowed it down.

“When we flew Fred Friday (August 13), it had been reduced to a remnant low at that point,” said Lt. Col. Sean Cross, 53rd WRS pilot. “It was important that we kept flying it, though, and getting that atmospheric data in real time to the folks in Miami (National Hurricane Center), so they could figure out what it was going to do next.”

Splitting taskings with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Hunters, the 53rd flew a total of six missions before Fred made landfall as a Tropical Storm on the Florida panhandle Aug. 16.

Around 65 Reserve Citizen Airmen, and three WC-130Js remain operating out of Homestead as Grace makes its way into the Gulf of Mexico.

Cross said they will remain there for another day or two before the squadron begins operating out of Keesler for the rest of Grace’s duration.

The storm is currently projected by the National Hurricane Center to impact the Yucatan Peninsula before moving into the Bay of Campeche. There it is expected to again strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall in southern Mexico.

“I like to tell people who live anywhere along the Gulf of Mexico to think of it like a pinball machine,” said Cross. “The forecasters are outstanding at their jobs, but Mother Nature can be unpredictable. The conditions are there to foster a storm and you should always be ready for one to bounce your way. Always be prepared.”