As the East coast winter storm began intensifying Wednesday, the propellers began spinning at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. Hurricane hunters were about to take flight, but not into a tropical cyclone. Instead they were gearing up for a different task; winter weather forecasts.
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The mission, named Recon AF306 (Air Force Reconnaissance), departed at around 3 p.m. central Wednesday and flew around the strengthening winter storm. It returned about ten hours later after gathering precious weather data.
The reconnaissance flight generally did the same thing it does when it flies in and around a hurricane. Meteorologists dropped what are called 'radiosondes' from the plane. Those devices were dropped from flight level, around 30,000 feet above sea level, which began falling while gathering weather conditions. These weather observations, such as temperature, dew point, wind speed and direction were then entered into weather computer models to help generate the forecast. This kind of data is valuable because of the lack of data over the ocean. In turn, this makes the weather models as accurate as they can be.
It's not uncommon for off-season hurricane hunter flights into these winter storms. Usually for the bigger storms each year, these kind of flights will be completed at least once.
Checking the NHC Reconnaissance Plan of the Day
, it does not appear additional flights are scheduled for this storm.
For WeatherNation, Meteorologist Steve Glazier