Rain or shine 325th OSS Weather Flight keeps Tyndall advised

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stacey Haga
  • 9th Operational Weather Squadron
The 325th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight, in tandem with the 9th Operational Weather Squadron's Bravo Flight from Shaw AFB, S.C., develop weather forecasts for Tyndall AFB, Fla., and its flying operations.
The 9th works with the flight, and a lot of high-tech equipment, to issue weather watches for Tyndall AFB. Throughout the day, the 325th OSS/OSW will monitor the skies for changes in weather and issue weather warnings as needed.
"Most bases have a lightning-within-five-miles warning for the airfield," said Master Sgt. James Tart, 325th OSS weather flight chief. "We also have a five-mile warning for the Silver Flag area and the golf course."
The weather warnings issued by the flight are just a small part of their day-to-day operations.
"On a daily basis we give the wing a forecast for the airfield and the surrounding flying areas over the northern Gulf Coast and Gulf of Mexico," said Sergeant Tart.
The forecasts include takeoff and landing weather, as well as weather for the area the aircraft will be flying in. The forecasts are briefed in-person to the Fighter Squadron Operations Superintendents, supervisor of flight and pilots. The weather flight also provides timely updates to the Maintenance Operations Control Center and briefs Maintenance Group leadership on weather conditions weekly.
"We receive the majority of our weather information from the 9th OWS at Shaw AFB, S.C.," said Sergeant Tart. "We also receive data from the National Weather Service Doppler radar located at Red Bay, Fla., which has the capability to see up 248 miles away. It's the primary piece of equipment we use."
Additional weather information is also received from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Hurricane Center, and web sites such as the Joint Air Force Army Weather Information Network.
All of the information enables the flight to predict weather well enough to confidently advise the wing on the best courses of action to ensure the safety of Tyndall's personnel and aircraft and if a hurricane's approaching, when to initiate hurricane evacuations.
"(To prepare for hurricane season,) we have the annual hurricane exercise on base to familiarize ourselves with procedures and the Hurrtrak software," said Sergeant Tart. "The software takes the forecast positions and movements and puts it in a geographic plot."
It is what the 9th OWS and 325th OSS/OSW will use to determine the strength of the wind bands, the projected path and even a prediction of the storm surge of the hurricane.
"It (Hurrtrak) gives an hourly animation of the hurricane winds as it is forecast to approach us," said Tech. Sgt. William Bennett, 325th OSS/OSW weather forecaster. "It provides us with an idea of when the winds will reach 50 knots. That way the Wing's leadership can determine when the aircraft and/or personnel need to be evacuated."
When hurricane season starts, the flight can become very busy, especially as a hurricane approaches.
"We receive bulletins every six hours when a hurricane is within 400 miles and is projected to come this way," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Fountain, 325th OSS/OSW airfield services supervisor. "Our first bulletin has to be posted by 5 a.m. everyday during this time."
When HURCON 4 starts, the Weather Flight starts 24-hour operations to keep Team Tyndall constantly updated on the status of the hurricane.
"In HURCON 3 the crisis action team is meeting and we will brief them," said Sergeant Bennett. "At the same time, the forecasters are publishing bulletins and briefing the pilots as they prepare to evacuate."
More briefings and recommendations follow as the hurricane watch team meets daily to meet the challenge.
"They use what we tell them on the timeline of the hurricane to coordinate with the Wing, 13 associate units, and TDY personnel on the base evacuation," said Sergeant Bennett.
Two members of the Weather Flight are also part of the ride-out team. They will not evacuate with the base, but stay in a bunker until the storm passes. This will enable the flight, as part of the base recovery element, to quickly start providing weather support, said the sergeant.
Even in austere conditions, they can provide weather support in coordination with the 9th OWS. The Airmen can coordinate the weather information and make assessments on when aircraft can safely return to base.
It gets busy forecasting the weather, but that is actually a good thing for some of the Airmen.
"The weather is constantly changing," said Sergeant Tart. "There is always something different or new happening."
What is the downside?
"It's difficult being held accountable for something you have absolutely no control of," said Sergeant Bennett.
"And when you are wrong everyone lets you know it," said Sergeant Tart laughingly.
The flight holds a track record of approximately 95 percent accurate weather predictions. Listening to them might be a good idea.