85 F
Cruz Bay
Wednesday, September 28, 2022


Emergency managers met Wednesday on the airstrip to welcome the lead element of the U.S. Airforce Hurricane Hunters.
The modified WC130H Hercules, built by Lockheed in Marietta, Ga., flew in from its home at Kessler AFB in Biloxi, Miss., via Jamaica. The Hurricane Hunters are on an orientation flight prior to any outbreak of identified hurricane weather.
When the National Hurricane Center identifies hurricane activity in the Caribbean, three planes are normally flown to the Caribbean staging area at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix.
Talking to the crew, it was evident this is a labor of love. The youngest crew had been flying in Hurricane Hunters for 2 1/2 years. The rest of the crew is of the 15- to 20-year tenure. One crew member described being
left at home in Biloxi when a hurricane passed over the area. He said he would have rather been flying.
Both the crew and Max Mayfield, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, said they were most excited about the new strategy of dropping a pattern of sondes going over the eye of a hurricane.
The drop sonde, they explained, is a canister attached to a small parachute that carries a transmitter and instruments to measure temperature, pressure, altitude, wind speed and definitive global position. This array of measurements is expected to define the storm as it has never been defined before, according to Mayfield.
"Imagine a line of instruments continuously measuring the four most important elements of the storm from the drop altitude to impact with the surface," Mayfield said. "This line will begin on the outskirts of the storm and continue through the middle and out the other side."
Mayfield was accompanied by Rafael Mojica and Israel Matos of the San Juan Weather Station at the San Juan International Airport. This installation is the local hurricane center with the Doppler radar that gives the Virgin Islands its definitive interpretation of the storm systems.
The National Weather Service has placed five extremely accurate weather-recording devices in the Virgin Islands. These instruments are stationed at the end of the Cyril E. King Airport runway and the furthest reaches of Mountain Top on St. Thomas, at the Myrah Keating Smith Health Facility on St. John, and the end of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport runway and the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency headquarters at Harmon Hill on St. Croix.
When questioned concerning the latest scientific predictions for the 1999 hurricane season, both Mayfield and Mojica cautioned care for a potentially dangerous season.
Both men attended last week's National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, Fla. Here Dr. William Gray, the nation's foremost hurricane prognosticator, informed the experts that he was "most pessimistic" concerning the coming season.
According to Mojica, Gray said that upon reflection, he had been far too conservative with his 1999 predictions. Mojica went on to say: "Given the action of La Nina (the counter to the former El Nino), we can expect a most busy time in the lower latitudes."
Mojica said Gray expects numerous storms to form in the Cape Verde region, which is the breeding ground for Virgin Islands hurricanes.
Mojica concluded with the observation that the expected conditions "would indicate activity later in the season around September — especially late September."

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