NEW ORLEANS — During this record breaking hurricane season, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, also known as the Hurricane Hunters, were busier than ever flying into hurricanes to gather important data to help forecasters better predict where storms are going and how bad they are going to get.
Captain Ryan Smithies said flying into some storms this year were worse than others.
“I did the landfall Laura flight and the Landfall Iota flight,” said Smithies while speaking with WWLTV’s Paul Dudley a day after the 2020 hurricane season came to an end.
“Both were high-end category fours or low end category fives. It just rocks you. The whole time you never really get out of it. We are strapped in pretty good but sometimes it will throw you out of your seat a little bit.”
The 2020 hurricane season was expected to be a very active season and it certainly was with 30 named storms.
While the Hurricane Hunters were occupied in the air, they were also busy on the ground. They had to evacuate the fleet at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi four times in a two month period because of storms.
“As you know in Louisiana and the New Orleans area it seemed constant that we were in the cone and us here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast it was the same way. This is home for us.”
Looking back on the historic season, Smithies said the hardest part was knowing just how close to home some storms were hitting.
“We have everyone living from New Orleans to Biloxi to Mobile so we are constantly away flying storms either out of home station or flying them out of other places. To have so much of the activity threatening home for us was tough this year,” said Smithies.
“How did you cope with so many storms so close to home this year?,” asked Dudley.
“I hate to use the word compartmentalize but it’s part of what we have to do,” said Smithies. “I mean duty calls and our mission is extremely important. We know that so we have to just prepare our families and homes the best we can and hope that everything is all good when we come home.”