NOAA 2002-R206
Contact: Frank Lepore
NOAA News Releases 2002
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A team of meteorologists from the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center and emergency managers will take to the skies March 18 in a campaign to increase public preparedness in hurricane-vulnerable Caribbean countries.

The group of men and women, flying aboard a hurricane hunting WC-130 "Hercules" aircraft, will visit Mexico, Belize, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico to brief local officials, the public and the media about the dangers of tropical cyclones in the region.

"Death and devastation from tropical storms and hurricanes have no boundaries," said Max Mayfield, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center. "These tours are a way of sharing experience, showing support for our scientific colleagues and promoting programs of mutual benefit to the people of all nations."

The 2001 Atlantic hurricane season brought nine hurricanes, with Hurricanes Iris and Michelle hitting Belize and Cuba respectively. Michelle claimed 17 lives (six in Honduras, five in Cuba, four in Nicaragua and two in Jamaica), and Iris caused more than $66 million in damages.

Mayfield said the five-day, five-city tour is part of an international effort to support the outreach needs of the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization's Regional Association-IV. The Caribbean hurricane awareness tour started in the late 1980s, and targets a region of 25 countries bordering the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific.

"Air crews, meteorologists and local officials share a collective aim with the National Hurricane Center: to protect people and property from the dangers posed by these storms," Mayfield added. "Public understanding of the hurricane threat, and what to do about it, are critical to reducing the tragic loss of life and property. Preparation through education is less costly than learning through tragedy," Mayfield said.

Partner nations work together on many levels, including sharing a common system for gathering weather data and distributing warnings. The National Hurricane Center, for example, uses surface and upper air (balloon) observations from many RA-IV member countries to improve weather analyses and forecasts it sends to all.

The "hurricane hunters" of the U.S. Air Force Reserve routinely fly directly into storms, gathering vital information in the turbulent "eye" of the hurricane. Data from all sources are combined in supercomputer numerical models operated by NOAA's National Weather Service. The models produce guidance for the official track and intensity forecast for storms threatening the region.

"There is close coordination between personnel who gather the weather data and meteorologists who produce the forecasts," Mayfield said. "This coordination continues with local government and emergency management officials acting to warn the public. The public then does its part before, during, and after the storm. People must prepare before the season starts, and act when told to do so by local officials."

Dr. Lixion Avila, hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, will brief local officials and the media on the general impacts of hurricanes in the region. Local meteorological and emergency management officials will assist in answering media and public questions. "The objective of these tours is to collectively help the public better understand what we and the public can do to save lives and property. Together we may reduce the impact of the next storm." Avila said.

 Itenerary for the 2002 Caribbean Hurricane Awareness Tour



 Homestead AFB, Fla.   March 18 - 9 a.m.
 Merida, Mexico  March 18 - 10:25 a.m.  March 19 - 10 a.m.
 Belize City, Belize  March 19 - 10:55 a.m.  March 20 - 9 a.m.
 Tegucigalpa, Honduras  March 20 - 10:55 a.m.  March 21 - 7 a.m.
 Santo Domingo,
Dominican Republic
San Isidro Air Base
 March 21 - 12:05 p.m.  March 22 - 10 a.m.
 San Juan, Puerto Rico
Isla Grande
 March 22 - 10:55 a.m.  March 23 - 10 a.m.
 Homestead AFB, Fla.  March 23 - 12:30 p.m.  

Note: All Times Local

Note to Editors: Additional background information is available on the National Hurricane Center's web site at
and the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at