NOAA 2000-227
Contact: Frank Lepore


Hurricane forecasters, a "hurricane hunting" aircrew, and special mission aircraft will visit five vulnerable Gulf coast communities, May 1st - May 5th, to increase public awareness of the hurricane threat to the Gulf coast during the 100th anniversary of the Galveston hurricane of 1900 the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today.

Using NOAA's "hurricane hunting" WP-3D Orion" aircraft as a classroom, the team of hurricane scientists and aircrew will assist federal, state and local emergency managers in: Harlingen, Tex.; Galveston, Tex.; Gulfport, Miss.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Fort Myers, Fla., to bring the "hurricane preparedness" message to students and the public.

This year's outreach effort is particularly poignant," said Max Mayfield, acting director of the National Hurricane center. "The approaching 100th anniversary of the "The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900" (September 8, 1900) is a milestone event--a contrast of our vulnerability then and now."

"Hurricanes are not likely to surprise us as they did in 1900," Mayfield said. "The nation's investment in the science and technology of weather forecasting has given us tools and results undreamed of 100 years ago. The media and emergency management networks are much more sophisticated in getting the word to the public".

"Disasters of the past are etched on the minds of those who experienced them." Mayfield added. "The challenge now is the greater concentration of people and property along the same coastline who have never experienced a major hurricane (winds greater than 110 mph). We can provide the warnings. The public must prepare appropriately and act as directed by their local officials to avoid the dangers of the next major hurricane".

A likely continuing La Niña cycle persisting well into the 2000 Atlantic hurricane season means a potential for above average activity. In an average year the Atlantic will experience 10 named storms, which happens when their wind speeds reach 39 mph. Typically, six of the storms will develop further and become hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or higher. On average, two of the six hurricanes will be "major", with winds above 110 mph.

"What matters is not just numbers; it's also where the storm makes landfall and how strong it is when it gets there," notes Stacy Stewart, the National Hurricane Center's warning coordination meteorologist. "The coastal population of Texas dodged Bret's bullet of 140 mph winds. Likewise a weaker Hurricane Irene came ashore over a sparsely populated area of southwest Florida".

The four-engine turboprop hurricane-hunter, affectionately named "Miss Piggy" for Jim Henson's Muppets, is one of two NOAA aircraft assigned to support the agency's oceanographic and atmospheric research. It often flies into the "eye" of the storm to gather intensity and position data along with aircraft of the U.S. Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.

On this trip the WP-3 aircraft serves as a "flying" classroom and backdrop for educational briefings for area school children and the general public. Captain Don Winter, director, NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, noted the aircraft is an excellent platform for conducting the variety of missions they fly each year. While hurricane research is their specialty, the twenty-five year old plane makes a unique flying classroom. "It's the imposing nature of the aircraft and its mission along with the enthusiasm of the aircrew that captures the imagination of school children and the general public who will get to tour the aircraft", he said.

The aircraft will be open for public inspection on the following dates and times at these airports:
 Monday, May 1st May 1st 5:00 p.m.
 Harlingen, Texas Daly International Airport  
 Harlingen Area Schools Tour Aircraft 9:00 a.m.  
 Media/ VIP Tour Aircraft 2:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.  
 General Public Tour Aircraft 3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.  
 Tuesday, May 2nd  May 3rd 8:30 a.m.
 Galveston, Texas Montgomery County Airport  
 Galveston Area Schools Tour 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.  
 Media/ VIP Tour Aircraft 3:00 p.m - 3:30 p.m.  
 Media Availability at Aircraft 5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.  
 Wednesday, May 3rd  May 4th 7:30 a.m.
 Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss., Regional Airport  
 Gulfport Area Schools Tour 10:00 a.m.-2:20 p.m.  
 Media/ VIP Tour Aircraft 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.  
 General Public Tour Aircraft 3:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.  
 Media Availability at Aircraft 5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.  
 Thursday, May 4th May 5th 8:30 a.m.
 Tallahassee, Fla., Regional Airport-Gen'l Av 9:30 a.m.  
 Tallahassee Area Schools Tour 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.  
 Media/ VIP Tour Aircraft 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.  
 General Public Tour Aircraft 3:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.  
 Media Availability at Aircraft 5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.  
 Friday, May 5th  
 Fort Meyers, Fla., Page Field 9:30 a.m.  
 Fort Myers Area Schools Tour 10:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.  
 Media/ VIP Tour Aircraft 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.  
 General Public Tour Aircraft 3:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.  
 Media Availability at Aircraft 5:00 p.m.- 6:30 p.m.  

Note to Editors: Additional background information is available on the National Hurricane Center's web site at And NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center