Hurricane hunters ready for Isaac reconnaissance flights at Ellington Field

Hurricane reconnaissance begins Monday

Author: Mary Benton, Reporter, mbenton@kprc.com
Published On: Aug 30 2012 04:00:26 PM CDT   Updated On: Aug 27 2012 07:53:56 AM CDT
Hurricane Hunter pic 10pm
HOUSTON -

Ellington Field in Southeast Houston is host to several hurricane hunter crews who were evacuated from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Tropical Storm, soon to be Hurricane, Isaac is expected to wreak havoc.

About five crews, along with six C-130 J airplanes, were evacuated.

Beginning Monday morning, the first of several flights will leave Ellington Field and head to Tampa to get a better look at Isaac's path.

"When we go up, we're looking for maximum speeds at the surface, as well as the wind speeds of whatever flight level we might be flying at, whether it's 10,000 or 5,000 feet. We're also trying to find the exact center of the storms," Hurricane Hunter Captain Kyle Larson said.

This will be Capt. Larson's 16th trip into the eye of a storm. He says every trip is different and hurricane hunters must prepare for the unexpected. The information they gather on wind speed, intensity and movement will help forecasters predict where Isaac will make landfall.

"Ultimately, it's about safety and making sure the people who need to be warned are warned and not evacuate more people than absolutely necessary. Keeping the roads free for people who actually have to leave town," Capt. Larson said.

Crews will be in the sky a total of 12 hours. While experienced at this type of mission, the hurricane hunters try to fly below hail and lightening to guarantee the safety of the plane and her crew.

"You don't really -- I wouldn't say -- get scared, but you're always concentrating on your mission. Making sure you're doing it safely," Capt. Larson said.