Weather forecasts protect Air Force, Americans

  • Published
With Hurricane Ike hitting the east coast of Texas, forecasters with the 601st AOC CONR Weather Support Team continue working around the clock collecting critical weather data.

As local, state and federal disaster response forces braced for Ike's landfall, these military weather experts provide AFNORTH leaders with up-to-date hurricane predictions in order to help make decisions that will allow them to provide the best possible support to responding civil authorities.

"Weather forecasts are invaluable to our first responders during hurricane preparation," said 2nd Lt. Amber Martinez, deputy chief, AFNORTH WST. "The information we provide allows Air Force assets to be moved close enough to quickly help after a hurricane has passed, while keeping those assets safe from the storm's wrath."

The AFNORTH WST uses forecasts from the 26th Operational Weather Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and the National Hurricane Center in Miami, to keep AFNORTH and the 601st Air and Space Operations Center apprised of the latest weather conditions affecting AFNORTH assets.

Year round, AFNORTH WST supports five divisions of the command, providing weather reports for different needs. Responding to the needs of intelligence, air mobility, planning, Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, and Strategy, the WST is a source of information in decision making and planning from flying routes to imagery analysis.

During hurricane season, mission success hinges on the most current and accurate weather information, as well as the hazards weather creates for all aircraft.

"We provide weather support for short-, medium-, and long-range planning for the [commander] and his staff," said Lieutenant Martinez. "Weather is one piece of the puzzle considered when they're determining which assets will be used for mission support.

When AFNORTH leadership needed to decide where to preposition search and rescue assets and the Air Component Coordination Element during the past several hurricanes and tropical storms, weather was the underlying factor to determine the best location.

Lieutenant Martinez said this information allows commanders to select different aircraft to deal with varying weather condition for missions such as imagery gathering.

"Depending on the cloud base, higher flying aircraft cannot always get the imagery that a lower flying plane might be able to get," said Lieutenant Martinez, who added that decisions about moving aircraft in and around a hurricane also depends on weather forecasts.