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Weather Warriors: 26th OWS drives U.S. hurricane forecasts

This graphic was created to accompany Weather Warriors: 26th OWS drives U.S. hurricane forecasts. Airmen from the 26th Operational Weather Squadron provide meteorological data for all tropical storms affecting U.S. Northern Command assets. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Jacob B. Wrightsman)

This graphic was created to accompany Weather Warriors: 26th OWS drives U.S. hurricane forecasts. Airmen from the 26th Operational Weather Squadron provide meteorological data for all tropical storms affecting U.S. Northern Command assets. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Jacob B. Wrightsman)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --

As hurricane season rolls around and the impending onslaught of wind and rain once again becomes part of life in the coastal regions of the United States, one unit located in the hotbed of the Gulf leads the charge in all hurricane meteorological production.

Responsible for providing meteorological data for all tropical storms affecting U.S. Northern Command assets, Airmen of the 26th Operational Weather Squadron are at the heart of all hurricane operations.

“This is the first year we’ve been designated by USNORTHCOM, as the lead meteorological production unit,” said Maj. Krista King, 26th OWS operations officer. “So what that means is that we provide meteorological services for the Atlantic and Pacific basins for hurricane support, not only for pre and during-storm operations but also post-storm operations.”

When a tropical storm bears down on the continental U.S., the 26th OWS has the responsibility of tracking, forecasting and dispersing all hurricane information to necessary military and civilian agencies.

The 26th OWS then provides different weather products, graphics and data to regions that are most likely to be affected.

“We are very adaptive at the hub, anything that the mission needs we’re able to produce. Typically that includes a storm track in the region that is going to be affected so we know who to alert to give them as much time as possible to prepare,” said Staff Sgt. Megan Barbera, 26th OWS weather forecaster. “In addition to that, we’ll do a storm surge product typically for our coastal sites and it gives an estimation of the max gust we’ll see at a station.”

After a hurricane has made landfall, the team continues to track the storm even as it travels hundreds of miles across the country. This piece of the mission provides integral data to both military and civilian agencies in support of recovery efforts.

“Our tropical products are designed to cover the southern gulf all the way up into Maine and the Northeast if need be,” King said. “When Hurricane Ida hit, we were still producing products even as the storm went up through New York City, Connecticut and into Maine.”

In the midst of disaster and destruction, the products and meteorological data the 26th OWS provides gives a sense of clarity in a time of chaos.

“We affect such a large area and we play such an important role in making sure safety is priority,” Barbera said. “Being able to alert our sites and let them know there is a threat coming and support their evacuation efforts while also being able to help with the relief support, it’s a positive feeling.”