Weather team prepares for hurricane season|
Posted 6/7/2010 Updated 6/7/2010
by Chelsea Gitzen
316th Wing Public Affairs
6/7/2010 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- -- Hurricanes and other forces of nature have the power to end lives in an instant. With hurricane season already in swing as of Tuesday, the 316th Operations Group weather flight remains vigilant and tracks all storms heading for the National Capital Region.
"Our job is to take the forecast that the Regional Forecast Center as well as the National Hurricane Center produces and determine the impact of hurricanes and other storms on Joint Base Andrews," said Staff Sgt. Michael Funk, 316 OG weather forecaster and assistant NCO in charge of the weather operations team. "We brief command as well as pilots on areas that they may be flying in that are prone to storms and other weather conditions."
In a career field where briefing pilots and command is a regular obligation, keeping an open line of communication becomes vital.
"Communication is absolutely important to the Weather Ops mission," Sergeant Funk said. "We communicate with our Regional Forecast Center, members of the Weather Ops team as well as any pilots utilizing the runway here."
The responsibility of the 316 OG weather flight is to keep pilots and the base population safe - a responsibility that the flight doesn't take lightly.
"I feel the weather flight mission is a very important one not only to aviation missions but to everyone on base," said Airman 1st Class Daniel Lint, 316 OG weather flight forecaster. "In order for pilots to be able to fly aircraft, or for operations on the installation to continue normally, members of the weather flight must keep the base population informed."
Storms and hurricanes don't have to be "Katrina-sized" for this mission to be important.
"Whether there are 12 storms or 18 storms in the Atlantic Ocean, it only takes one to impact the installation," Sergeant Funk said.
Weather flight forecasters monitor conditions from their operations center and report any activity that may affect the base populous.
"There are several different weather models that we take a consensus from for our forecasts," Sergeant Funk said.
If a hurricane does form and has the possibility of nearing the NCR, members of the weather flight advise command of the impending conditions.
"If a storm is getting within a certain range of the installation, we will notify the command post and predict what the winds will be like," Sergeant Funk said. "Command then takes what we advise into consideration and makes a decision about what actions to take."
Depending on the location and severity of storms, command would then place the installation in a hurricane condition (HURRICON).
Acording to Sergeant Funk, HURRICON levels are dependent on when a tropical storm or hurricane, with wind speeds greater than 50 knots, is expected to hit the base.
"If we advise command that a hurricane has formed and could be heading toward the installation, they then may put the base in HURRICON1 status," said Sergeant Funk. "There are four HURRICONs, and command dictates what actions members take for each which may include preventing flooding in buildings or evacuating personnel in HURRICON4."
All members living on and off of Joint Base Andrews are able to take their own precautions when preparing for a hurricane or storm. By knowing how individuals are vulnerable, they can take actions to reduce the possibility of damage they or their homes undergo during inclement weather.
"Primarily, people should listen to the warning agencies on radios and televisions as well as keep track of what the weather is like and will be for your area," said Sergeant Funk. "The National Hurricane Center may be a great resource as well. If need be, during a hurricane members can block doors to prevent flooding, secure lawn furniture or other things outside your home that could be affected by the strong winds."
For more information on hurricanes and how to prepare for the hurricane season, visit http://www.weather.gov/.