SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Air Force hurricane hunters have been flying into tropical systems since 1944, but this year they also must fly through a pandemic.
"Being in the military for 15 years, there are always other considerations, always something that can be a detractor but at the end of the day we've got a mission to do," said Meteorologist, Maj. Jeremy DeHart.
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron completes those missions with its fleet of ten WC-130s. The crews on these planes are responsible for collecting critical data by flying through tropical systems, to accomplish this, they must stay safe to do so.
"Our maintenance team is awesome in how they prepare the aircraft and get it ready for us to fly, we wear masks as we can," said Maj. DeHart.
The hurricane hunters are taking every measure possible to keep their critical workspace clean. Unlike in the past, WTOC was unable to fly with the hurricane hunters this season.
Most of their flight missions consist of only a handful of people: the pilots, a navigator, load master and weather officer.
"Obviously, it's a balance between trying to maintain social distancing and following all the CDC guidelines. We are trying to minimize all the contact as much as we can to make sure we are ready to go when a no kidding storm tasking comes along and we need everybody on board for that," Maj. DeHart.
During their missions, the hurricane hunters fly as low as 1,000 feet above the surface collecting data such as temperature, wind speed, direction and pressure levels.
The hurricane hunters are in constant communication with the National Hurricane Center, which ingests their collected data into the global models.
“People need that information, you see how that improves the modeling, improves the forecasting,” said Maj. DeHart. “When the National Hurricane Center issues forecasts and tells you what the impact is going to be, heed those warnings, advisories and impacts. That’s why we do what we do, to serve you and to get you that information so you can protect yourselves and protect your property.”