Hurricane Hunters partner with NOAA to educate public

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By Master Sgt. Brian Lamar, 403rd Public Affairs / Published May 27, 2014


Lt. Col. Keith Gibson interacts with students from Gilchrist Elementary School during the Tallahassee Hurricane Awareness Tour May 22, 2014, at the Tallahassee Regional Airport, Fla. The tour is designed to help save lives and decrease property damage by promoting hurricane preparedness and awareness among local populations along the Gulf of Mexico. Gibson is the director of operations for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. (Courtesy photo/403rd Public Affairs)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) --

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew to the Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida, May 22 to team up with the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the fourth day of a week-long Hurricane Awareness Tour.

More than 1,000 students from local schools attended the tour in the morning as a field trip on their last week of school. The tour was also opened in the afternoon to the general public.

The tour is designed to help save lives and decrease property damage by promoting hurricane preparedness and awareness among local populations along the Gulf of Mexico.

"The only way to combat complacency is education," said Kelly Godsey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The lack of recent hurricane landfalls in the Tallahassee area has led to dangerous complacency, according to Godsey. Reeducating the public on how to stay prepared for a hurricane can save lives and help reduce damage to property.

This year, to help create more buzz and excitement for the tour, the 53rd WRS Hurricane Hunters brought their WC-130J and the NOAA Hurricane Hunters, brought their P-3 Orion aircraft.

"These planes are great," said Kevin Keve, a sixth-grade teacher from Thomas County Middle School. "The students love seeing them up close. We had a good time and learned some valuable information of how we get storm data from a Hurricane."

The planes not only serve as a hands-on item during the tour, they also serve as an attention grabber.

"Getting the hurricane preparedness message out is not an easy task; you have to get people's attention," said Dr. Richard Knabb, the director of the National Hurricane Center. "The planes are a crowd draw. It grabs their attention and shows them that they need to take this information (seriously)."

With today's fiscally constrained environment, tough decisions are made to determine the value of outreach venues like the Hurricane Awareness Tour, but Knabb, believes the decision to attend is the right choice.

"The cost of a hurricane awareness tour is tiny in comparison to the cost of a community not being prepared," Knabb said. "Outreach and education is a core part of the NWS mission. Life and property safety is what the Air Force is about, and that is where our partnership in this is important."

The 53rd WRS Hurricane Hunters hope to participate in more stops during the five-city tour next year, according to Lt. Col. Keith Gibson, the 53rd WRS director of operations.

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