CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Thursday was an exciting day for meteorologists and weather geeks of all stripes around the greater Charlotte region as the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS (better known as the famed ‘Hurricane Hunters’) paid a visit to spread the word of weather safety as the 2019 hurricane season approaches.
Two different aircraft were flown in to put on public display for anyone interested to come out and see for themselves.
The one most familiar to people who pay attention to this kind of activity was the C-130 Hercules (more specifically the WC-130J) which is best known for flying directly into the eye of hurricanes.
Their main mission is to sample data around and inside the storm system and transmit it back to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to help their meteorologists better forecast the position, movement and strength of the storm.
The other plane was a WP-3D Orion (P-3 for short) which flies similar, but not always identical missions into hurricanes as they are geared a bit more toward collecting data for research and improving computer models down the road.
Dr. Ken Graham, the Director of the National Hurricane Center, talked with us at length and gave us his perspective on hurricanes and how the public reacts to the various hazards hurricanes presents.
While he acknowledges hurricanes always get the headlines for their fierce winds, his bigger concern is for the dangerous conditions that develop after landfall which is often catastrophic flooding.
He noted more people actually die from hurricanes after the hurricane is gone, not during the hurricane. Again, that is due to the dangerous flooding that takes more time to reach its peak.
That should be a real red flag for folks living in western North and South Carolina as we will rarely have to contend with the strongest winds from a hurricane, but we are just as vulnerable to the heavy rains and inland flooding, in some cases more so when the rains fall in the mountains and begin rapidly flowing downstream causing massive and dangerous flash flooding.
Make sure you keep the WBTV Weather app handy this year as Hurricane Season gets underway June 1. You can turn on Tropical Layers on the radar map within the app. Just head to your app store and search for ‘WBTV’, and download it. It is absolutely free.
Meteorologist Eric Thomas