KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. — People in five Gulf Coast cities can go into an Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter airplane and a plane that flies around and over developing storms during the National Hurricane Center's 2018 Hurricane Awareness Tour .
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Mississippi-based 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron are sending the plane to two cities in Texas and one each in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, starting Monday.
Hurricane Center director Ken Graham and other hurricane experts will lead the tour, which begins at McAllen Miller International Airport in Texas and is meant to remind people to get their hurricane plans ready before the season begins June 1.
"Last year, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Nate proved again that the entire Gulf Coast is at risk from storms and that several hurricanes can strike in a single season," Graham said in a news release.
The tour continues through Friday at Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Beaumont, Texas; Baton Rouge Metro Airport in Louisiana; Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama; and Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Florida, the base for the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center.
The public can tour both planes and talk to pilots, hurricane experts and local weather forecasters each day.
NOAA's Gulfstream IV twin-engine jet, nicknamed "Gonzo," drops sensor-filled tubes that send weather data as they fall through hurricanes. It also has a doppler radar system mounted at its rear.
The WC-130J Hercules is designed to fly through the eye of a hurricane while a weather officer at the front of the cargo compartment operates computerized reconnaissance equipment and acts as flight director. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is assigned to the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.