Keesler spins up for hurricane season

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Greg Biondo
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
With hurricane season starting June 1, knowing the potential strength and path of a hurricane is a vital part of being properly prepared in case a disastrous storm strikes the Gulf Coast.

The Base Operational Support weather services operations team is Keesler's weather forecasting service that is able to track a hurricane from formation to landfall and provide aftermath with assistance from the National Hurricane Center.

"The NHC will assign a percentage to waves coming off the coast of Africa for how likely they are to develop within the next 48 hours," said James Tart, WSO lead forecaster. "If a storm cuts under Cuba, based on experience, then we know it can probably make the turn to come up into the Gulf."

If a storm does strike Keesler or the surrounding areas, the WSO is part of the team that will man the Emergency Operations Center and help the wing commander stay informed.
According to Tart, Hurricane Isaac was a prime example of information being passed to the commander and the appropriate call being made, which saved the Air Force millions of dollars.

"We were in the area that was supposed to receive hurricane strength winds according to the NHC," said Tart. "We were able to factor in terrain effects and determine we were only going to receive 50 knot winds with this (storm), and that's pretty much what we got. Instead of making the decision to evacuate the base which would have cost over $4 million, the wing commander decided to have the base shelter in place."

Behind the scenes, the WSO is constantly training to ensure that its personnel and Team Keesler members are prepared for any natural disaster that may occur.

"The base weather service works much harder and longer than most people know," said Roseanne Peterson, BOS emergency manager. "They participate in our exercises and training to assure the entire base is better prepared for any natural disaster. Our weather service is like tires on a car. We would make little progress forward in our storm season preparation and response without them."

Forecasters have predicted a quiet hurricane season for 2014, but that doesn't mean preparedness should be placed on the back burner.

"Just because they're forecasting a slow year doesn't mean you should get complacent," said Tart. "It only takes one."