NOAA 99-R221
Contact: Frank Lepore


The annual threat posed by hurricanes such as Georges, which rampaged through the eastern Caribbean in 1998, brings hurricane experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Air Force Reserve Command's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron's "Hurricane Hunters" to the region to lend their support to forecast and safety initiatives.

The U.S. National Weather Service specialists make up a United Nations-sponsored team that will meet with emergency managers and meteorologists in Grand Cayman Island, Jamaica, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Antigua -- island sentinels who routinely send their weather observations to the National Hurricane Center. The world famous "Hurricane Hunters" conduct most of the aerial reconnaissance to support hurricane forecasting in the region.

"It is a community effort -- a team approach -- to providing vital information required to accurately forecast hurricanes," said Max Mayfield, team leader and deputy director of the NWS's Hurricane Center, a NOAA facility in Miami. "The United States benefits from the observation networks and forecast efforts of these countries. Working with Air Force reconnaissance and island observations at the surface, we gain valuable data for our own hurricane operations as we coordinate and issue warnings for the region."

An array of interests worldwide have a stake in accurate hurricane prediction, including the tourism, aviation and marine communities. The National Hurricane Center is designated by the United Nation's World Meteorological Organization as a regional center for tropical storm warnings and is mandated by the U.S. government to coordinate its operations with other countries.

"It takes a team approach to cover the vast ocean expanse of the region," said Jerry Jarrell, director of the National Hurricane Center. "We rely heavily on the contributions of all member countries in the region and our Air Force Reserve colleagues as the basis for our forecasts."

U.S. experts visited Central America in March, coordinating services with Nicaragua and Honduras, the two countries most impacted by Hurricane Mitch. "By demonstrating international involvement, we assist meteorologists in maintaining a strong base of support with their own governments and help them demonstrate the value of their forecasts to vulnerable communities," Jarrell said.

"As we visit the areas hit by Hurricane Georges, we gain useful perspectives from the scientists who were there forecasting the storm," Mayfield said. "Collectively, we can help reduce the losses caused by these powerful tropical storms. We are fortunate to have these countries and U.S. national assets like the ‘53rd WRS' as part of the international team."

The most visible tool in the awareness program is the WC-130 "Hurricane Hunter" aircraft, which will transport the hurricane experts during the tour. "The aircraft is more than a flying scientific platform. It serves to educate. And local officials and citizens alike are invited to come aboard," said Lt. Col. Jimmy Stewart, 53rd WRS Director of Operations.

The following is an itinerary for the Eastern Caribbean Awareness Tour (April 19-23, 1999).

Location (Airport) Date / Arrive Depart
Grand Cayman Island 19 April 10:10 a.m. (Local) 20 April 9 a.m. (Local)
(Owen Roberts Int'l)

Jamaica 20 April 10:15 a.m. (Local) 21 April 9 a.m. (Local)
(Norman Manley Int'l)

St. Thomas, V.I. 21 April 12:30 a.m. (Local) 22 April 10 a.m. (Local)
(Cyril E. King)

St. Maarten 22 April 10:45 a.m. (Local) 23 April 10 a.m. (Local)
(Prinses Juliana)

Antigua 23 April 10:45 a.m. (Local) 24 April 10 a.m. (Local)
(V.C. Bird Int'l)


Note to Editors: Additional background information and en route updates are available on the National Hurricane Center's Web site at: and 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron: