KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Mississippi –
Believe it or not, we are doing it again! The third time was not the charm, going for a record fourth evacuation this year. The Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing started flying Tropical Storm Zeta today and will be relocating its aircraft once again, but now to move out of the path of Zeta as it makes its way toward the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The wing’s 815th Airlift Squadron, a tactical airlift unit, and the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, or Hurricane Hunters, are relocating their aircraft to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. The Hurricane Hunters will continue to fly Zeta to provide weather information to the National Hurricane Center, which greatly improves their intensity and track forecasts.
Zeta is still classified as a tropical storm, but is forecast to be at or near hurricane strength when it approaches the norther Gulf coast on Wednesday, and there is an increasing risk of storm surge, wind, and rainfall impacts from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle. Residents in these area should monitor the progress of Zeta, as Hurricane and Storm Surge watches will likely be issued later today, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“Thanks once again to Joint Base San Antonio for their support, as we move our aircraft ahead of the storm. We do this as a precautionary measure for two reasons: first, to protect the aircraft from damage, and second, so we can continue to fly storm reconnaissance missions,” said Col. Jeffrey A. Van Dootingh, 403rd Wing commander.
“This has been a challenging year to say the least. Between mitigating COVID, a major Southwest Asia deployment, a record number of hurricane evacuations, now tying the busiest hurricane season on record, and still meeting all taskings to provide valuable weather data for the National Hurricane Center forecasts: our outstanding Airmen get the mission accomplished and have proven they are always ready.”