With hurricane season underway and the looming onslaught of wind and rain once again part of life in the coastal regions of the United States, a unit in the Gulf hotbed takes the lead in all meteorological production of hurricanes.
Responsible for the provision of meteorological data for all tropical storms that affect the facilities of the US Northern Command, the airmen of the 26th operational weather squadron are at the heart of all hurricane operations.
“This is the first year we have been named by USNORTHCOM as the Lead Meteorological Production Unit,” said Maj. Krista King, 26th OWS Operations Officer. “So this means that we provide meteorological services for the Atlantic and Pacific basins for hurricane support, not only for operations before and during a storm, but also for operations after the storm.”
When a tropical storm hits the continental US, the 26th OWS has the responsibility to track, predict and distribute all hurricane information to the necessary military and civil authorities.
The 26th OWS will then provide various weather products, graphs and data to the regions most likely to be affected.
“We are very adaptable at the hub, we can produce everything the mission needs. Typically this includes a storm trail in the affected area so we know who to alert to give them as much time as possible to prepare, ”said Staff Sgt. Megan Barbera, 26th OWS Weather Forecast. “In addition, we create a storm surge product that is typical of our coastal locations, and it gives an estimate of the maximum gust we will see at a station.”
After a hurricane hits the country, the team continues to track the storm as it travels hundreds of miles across the country. This part of the mission provides integral data to both military and civil authorities to support recovery efforts.
“Our tropical products are designed to cover the southern Gulf to Maine and the northeast when needed,” said King. “When Hurricane Ida hit, we were still making products even as the storm hit New York City, Connecticut and Maine.”
In the midst of catastrophe and destruction, the products and meteorological data of the 26th OWS convey a sense of clarity in a time of chaos.
“We cover such a large area and we play such an important role that safety is paramount,” said Barbera. “Being able to warn our locations and inform them of impending dangers and to support their evacuation efforts, while they can also help with the assistance, is a positive feeling.”