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CONTACT:  Frank Lepore                       FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
          National Hurricane Center          March 15, 2004
          SSG James Pritchett
          53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron

Hurricane Awareness: Aim of U.S. Hurricane Forecasters' Visit to Caribbean

With awareness and preparedness the keys to hurricane survival, "Hurricane Hunter" aircrew with their WC-130-J aircraft and a team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hurricane forecasters will visit six Caribbean cities this week to spread the word. The U.S. National Weather Service hurricane forecasters and aircrew from the Air Force Reserve Command's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron are part of the United Nations' group visiting Mexico, Dominica, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico. The team will share information with Caribbean meteorological and emergency management officials to help increase public awareness of the Atlantic hurricane threat. The participating countries are part of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) Regional Association-IV, which includes the United States and 24 countries bordering the western Atlantic.

Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, a NOAA facility in Miami, said the team was responding to the public awareness needs of the region identified by the WMO.

"The Caribbean countries are closely linked in mutual protection of their hurricane- vulnerable populations. The countries routinely share vital weather observations that help determine the track and intensity of approaching storms. The U.S. assembles this data into a forecast so that all countries may issue warnings as appropriate," Mayfield said.

"It takes many elements to make a forecast: the weather observations collected from WMO member countries, reconnaissance aircraft like the WC-130-J "Hurricane Hunter" we are flying today, satellites, computer models and the dedicated meteorologists who must weigh all this data and come to a forecast decision. Once the forecast is issued, people must heed the advice of their local government officials," Mayfield said. "The more we can do to help raise the public's awareness before the June-to-November Atlantic hurricane season, the more likely we can reduce loss of life and property.

The WMO team includes the Air Force Reserve Command air crew from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. The "Hurricane Hunters" WC-130-J is designed to gather position and intensity data over the ocean by flying directly into the storm, often relaying vital information in the turbulent "eyewall" of the hurricane to forecasters in Miami.

At each location, a National Hurricane Center meteorologist 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.

As a person responsible for developing forecasts, hurricane forecaster Dr. Avila observed, "the objective of these tours is to collectively help the public better understand what we and they can do to save lives and property. Together we may reduce the impact of the next storm".

The U.S. Air Force (Reserve) WD-130-J aircraft will be on display (during the hours indicated below) for the public, the media and school children.

Itinerary - (2004) Caribbean Hurricane Awareness Tour (March 15 - 20)

Note: All times are local
Date Stop On Display Depart
15 March Monday Homestead AFRB, Miami   15 / 0900
  Tampico, Mexico 15 / 1300-1600 16 / 0900
16 March Tuesday Dominica 17 / 1200-1500 17 / 1630
17 March Wednesday Martinique 17 / 1745-1830  
  Martinique 18 / 0900-1300 18 / 1530
18 March Thursday Guadeloupe 18 / 1700-1745  
  Guadeloupe 19 / 0800-1100 19 / 1130
19 March Friday Ponce, Puerto Rico 19 / 1400-1900 20 / 1000
20 March Saturday Isla Grande, P.R. 20 / 1200-1700 21 / 1000
21 March Sunday Return to Homestead    

NOTE TO EDITORS: Additional background information is available on the National Hurricane Center website at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov and the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron web site at http://www.hurricanehunters.com/ .

WC-130 aircraft