HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
The National Hurricane Center and the 23rd Special Operation Weather Squadron are currently monitoring Hurricane “X” located southwest of the area of responsibility. This system will slowly begin to curve north and northeast before it makes landfall over Alabama Wednesday morning. The expansive wind field will contribute to a prolonged period of tropical storm force winds extending across the western Florida panhandle. Impacts to Hurlburt Field are as follows…
For weather Airmen, this is a common message crafted to alert and inform the 1st Special Operations Wing Commander and mission partners of potential threats to base resources and the population.
“We are part of the planning process for missions but also deal with resource protection,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mandy Wright, 23rd SOWS craftsman. “We tailor our reports to each aircraft and the potential threats that are inherent to various weather conditions.”
On a typical day, weather Airmen are responsible for tracking weather systems that impact missions across the 1st SOW and their mission partners. They also brief flight commanders about potential hazards for each aircraft’s threshold.
“We are unique because at times we support more than just Hurlburt Field,” said Wright. “We have detached units that can support weather operations for the special operations community around the world.”
Once a natural disaster, such as a tropical storm or hurricane appears within their area of responsibility, they shift to interpreting the National Hurricane Center’s report and adjusting it to reflect specific impacts to the base, aircraft and personnel.
“Normally we tailor the weather report to specific aircraft and their mission needs by filtering out irrelevant information and giving them what they need to accomplish that mission,” said Staff Sgt. Jarred Smith, 23rd SOWS craftsman. “For tropical storms and hurricanes, we take the big picture information given to us, and as it gets closer, we adjust our report to the specific threats to the base.”
Once a numbered or named storm enters the AOR, or is forecasted to enter the AOR, the weather flight issues the initial tropical update and continues to monitor the storm. Depending on external factors, they will begin updating every six hours to get a good grasp on when the storm will hit.
Some of the things they monitor are maximum expected rainfall, maximum expected wind, center position, direction, and the speed of movement.
“When we issue these updates, we are never deviating from the National Hurricane Center, but we are trying to get the most accurate information to the Wing Commander so they can make decisions about the evacuation of assets,” said Wright. “At the end of the day, we are here to advise on what we expect, and knowing that it has such an impact on the mission is very fulfilling.”