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Tropical Wave Bringing Light Rains To St. Croix Gets The Attention of Hurricane Hunters Monitoring Future Development of Storm System

ALWAYS PREPARED: A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft prepares to make an early morning takeoff on St. Croix to evaluate storms systems by flying into them and taking meteorological measurements.

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FREDERIKSTED — The Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is tasked to fly into a tropical system in the region today.

The Hurricane Hunters were deployed to St. Croix on June 16 and are scheduled to fly another low level investigation mission today.

Another crew will fly a LLI mission out of Keesler Air Force Base today into the system south of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

LLI missions are flown at 500 to 1,500 feet to determine if the system has a closed low level center, indicating a storm is becoming more organized and increasing in strength, said Maj. Ryan Rickert, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer. He is a member of the only Department of Defense organization that flies into tropical storms and hurricanes, a mission that began in 1944.

Once a system becomes a tropical storm or hurricane, the Hurricane Hunters begin flying “fix” missions, which are at higher altitudes, ranging from 2,500 to 10,000 feet depending on the severity of the storm, said Rickert.

The squadron flew a fix mission off the coast of the Yucatan about 10 days ago.

Aircrews fly through the eye of a storm four to six times to locate the low-pressure center and circulation of the storm. During each pass through the eye, they release a dropsonde, which collects weather data on its descent to the ocean surface, specifically gathering the surface winds and pressure.

The data the Hurricane Hunters collect is sent by satellite communication to the National Hurricane Center to assist them with their forecasts and storm warnings.

According the NHC, the system in our area have the potential to become tropical storms over the next 48 hours.

“It’s important to be prepared. It’s why we do this, so we can have better forecasts and people have time to prepare and evacuate,” said Rickert.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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