NOAA Aircrew Begins Hurricane Awareness Mission in Texas

May 1, 2006

With the impact of a record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season still etched on the coastline from Texas to Florida, and recovery on the minds of its residents, forecasters from the NOAA National Hurricane Center will join the aircrew from the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center on a hurricane hunter aircraft tour from May 1 to 5.

The five-city, five-day mission will increase hurricane awareness and encourage preparedness in vulnerable coastal and inland communities along the Gulf Coast and Florida.

The team of hurricane experts, aided by local NOAA National Weather Service officials, will ride a WP-3 Orion four-engine turboprop hurricane hunter, nicknamed “Miss Piggy,” to meet emergency managers, media and the public. Cities on the route include Brownsville and Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas; Mobile, Ala.; and West Palm Beach and Tampa, Fla.

“The brave men and women who fly into the heart of the hurricane are our sentinels in the storm,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “They, and their U.S. Air Force Reserve Command counterparts, gather data critical to producing more accurate forecasts vital for warning the public.”

Working in partnership with federal, state and local emergency managers and the media—we can help educate the public,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the NOAA National Weather Service. “But the public should also take responsibility for preparing themselves to recognize and respond appropriately to severe weather threats.”

“Educating the public is our continuing mission,” said Max Mayfield, director of the NOAA National Hurricane Center. “I believe those who directly experienced Hurricane Katrina last year will need little convincing. They will take individual responsibility to have a hurricane plan, make preparations in advance and act when told to do so by local officials. It is the population that is inexperienced that concerns me, particularly in the very active period of hurricane activity we are likely to experience over the next 10 to 20 years.”

The tour schedule includes: May 1: Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport, Brownsville, Texas (public tours, 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.); May 2: Beaumont-Port Arthur Southeast Texas Regional Airport (public tours, 2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.); May 3: Mobile Regional Airport, Mobile, Ala. (public tours, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.); May 4:Palm Beach International Airport, West Palm Beach, Fla.; and May 5:Tampa International Airport, Tampa, Fla.

The NOAA National Hurricane Center will continue its hurricane hazard education campaign during national Hurricane Preparedness Week from May 21-27.

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