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Friday, April 19, 2024


April 21, 2001 – The rumbling, gray U.S. Air Force Reserve planes that touched down at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on Friday were a harbinger of something islanders dread: hurricane season.
The three WC-130 aircraft from the famed Hurricane Hunters Squadron were arriving on their annual trek to St. Croix to set up shop for the season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
Crews from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., have the job of flying into severe weather systems to gather the data experts need to forecast when, where and whether the storms are likely to make landfall.
"No storm is too powerful for us" to fly through, said the aptly named Roy Cloud, a flight engineer.
Joining the flight crews on Friday were experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service, which operates the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Veteran hurricane analyst William Gray has forecast a "normal" season for 2001 –- 10 named storms, six of them developing into hurricanes, two of them intense. However, the storm trackers warn that those are just best guesses.
"For what it’s worth, Bill Gray is saying it’s going to be an average year weather wise," NOAA’s Max Mayfield said. "But it’s not just about numbers. Don’t focus on numbers."
Mayfield noted that last season was forecast to be above average in storms, yet none made landfall. In the past, however, he pointed out, "Big hurricanes occurred in years forecast as below average."
According to Gray, while 2001 will be less active than the very busy hurricane seasons of 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000, it will still be more active than the average for the 25-year period of relatively low activity seen since the 1970s.
To see the complete research findings of Gray and his team, click here.
The Hurricane Hunters will be tracking tropical disturbances and hurricanes in the South Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico for the National Hurricane Center. The'll be using 10 WC-130H aircraft adapted for weather reconnaissance with computerized meteorological data-gathering instruments.
A crew is made up of six people: two pilots, a flight engineer, a navigator, a weather officer and a dropsonde operator, who drops a small cylinder into the storm that dispatches temperature, wind, pressure and position readings back to the aircraft. All are reservists.

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