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Hurricane Hunters Gear Up For Another Season Touring Mexico, Panama and Puerto Rico

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SAN JUAN — National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham and several U.S. hurricane specialists are making a tour to local airports in Mexico and the Caribbean to visit with residents of vulnerable communities and discuss hurricane preparedness, resilience, and how they can become “weather-ready.”

They’ll conduct tours of the Air Force Reserve Command’s WC-130J “Hurricane Hunter” so residents can see how scientists collect hurricane information, and NOAA’s G-IV jet, a high-tech, high-flying, high-speed platform used for hurricane forecasting and research, also will be on display.

“Last year’s hurricanes Irma and Maria were some of the most powerful hurricanes ever to strike Mexico or the Caribbean,” Graham said April 10. “Even as recovery from these devastating hurricanes continues, we have to prepare for another season that is just weeks away.”

The hurricane season in the eastern North Pacific begins May 15. The season for the central North Pacific and Atlantic basin starts June 1.

Locations and local times for public tours are:


  • April 23, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
  • April 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Manzanillo, Mexico
  • April 26, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Panama City, Panama
  • April 27, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • April 28, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Cieba (Roosevelt Roads), Puerto Rico

Military air crews fly WC-130J aircraft directly into the core of tropical cyclones to gather data used to forecast a hurricane’s intensity and landfall. The data are sent in real time via satellite from the aircraft directly to the National Hurricane Center for analysis.

“Last year was a very busy hurricane season for the squadron,” said Lt. Col. Kaitlyn Woods, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron chief meteorologist. “At one point we flew into Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Katia simultaneously from three different locations, using almost all our assets and manpower at once. We do this so the forecasters at the hurricane center will have accurate and up-to-date information.”

During the 2017 hurricane season, the 53rd WRS flew 93 missions over the Atlantic basin, and the NOAA G-IV flew 21 missions.

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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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