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NOAA: Hurricane hunter planes stopping by Long Island

A WC-130J Hurricane Hunter aircraft prepares for takeoff

A WC-130J Hurricane Hunter aircraft prepares for takeoff in San Antonio, Texas. One of the aircraft will visit May 8, 2017 at Long Island MacArthur Airport. Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force

If a hurricane preparation checklist doesn’t have the sizzle to grab your attention, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is betting that a visit with crews who fly right into those monstrous cyclones will.

NOAA, in conjunction with other organizations, is planning a hurricane awareness tour next month, with a stop May 8 at Long Island MacArthur Airport, and the public is invited for an afternoon visit.

On hand will be hurricane hunter crews and two planes they fly either into the tropical storm’s core or above and ahead of the storm, to gather critical data for forecasting purposes.

And, yes, there will be walk-throughs of one of those planes, said Gary Conte, warning and coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Upton office.

The aim is to raise awareness of the threats these storms bring, he said, as well as the danger of not having a plan in place, should a tropical cyclone be heading this way.

The morning is reserved for school groups of third- to sixth-graders — six groups of up to 45 children each — from Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, Conte said.

The elementary schools invited, he said, were selected by members of the emergency management community, with whom the weather service works closely, as potentially hazardous weather approaches.

There’ll also be media briefings and comments from dignitaries, who include the director of the National Hurricane Center, as well as its hurricane hunter mission specialist and flight crew members.

And, of course, there’ll also be those planes.

One is the U.S. Air Force Reserve WC-130J Hurricane Hunter aircraft, one of 10 used by Air Force reservists to fly directly into a storm’s core, collecting data to help forecast intensity and landfall.

The other is NOAA’s G-IV aircraft, part of a fleet of specialized research and operational aircraft that fly around and ahead of cyclones, gathering data for forecast models. This plane is too small for touring, Conte said.

From 2:30 to 5 p.m., members of the public have a chance, with sign-up required, first come first served, at http://www.weather.gov/okx/2017HAT.

MacArthur is the second stop on the East Coast tour, following Gander Airport in Newfoundland. Next up will be airports in Washington, D.C.; Raleigh, North Carolina, and Orlando and Miami, Florida.

Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but there can be outlier storms. That’s the case this year, with Tropical Storm Arlene, well out to sea, losing its oomph Friday and expected to dissipate.

Colorado State University researchers and forecasters earlier this month issued an outlook for below normal hurricane activity for the year.

With each year’s report, though, the authors also include a reminder that, “it takes only one storm near you to make this an active season.”

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