Hurricane hunter planes won’t be off-course when they land at Roanoke next month.
The 2019 NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour makes a stop at the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport on May 8.
From 2 to 5 p.m. that day, the public will be able to take a free tour through a U.S. Air Force Reserve WC-130J Hurricane Hunter plane and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Lockheed WP-3D Orion aircraft used to penetrate tropical cyclones, making crucial data measurements to support forecasting and warning efforts.
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham, hurricane forecasting specialist Daniel Brown and several crew members of the two hurricane hunter aircraft will be on hand, as well as meteorologists with the National Weather Service and local emergency managers.
The Roanoke and New River valleys, being 300 miles inland, have never on record experienced true hurricane-level winds from landfalling systems but have historically seen torrential rainfall, some wind damage and occasionally tornadoes from hurricanes that have moved inland.
Eight of the Roanoke River’s 10 highest flood crests on record since 1900 were related to hurricanes, including the massive 1985 flood, some 13 feet above flood stage, when the remnants of Hurricane Juan contributed to 10 deaths in the region. This past September and October, hurricanes Florence and Michael each brought heavy rain and flooding to the area, with the Roanoke River crest 6 ½ feet above flood stage from Michael on Oct. 11 ranking as the seventh highest on record.
So being aware and preparing for hurricanes are for us in the mountains half a day’s drive from the shore, too.
Mostly, this is an opportunity to see the complex instrumentation inside these planes and to interact with high-level weather professionals.
If you have an interest in meteorology, tropical weather or aircraft, mark it on your calendar.
Typical spring weather for our region
There are going to be some powerful storm systems plying the atmosphere across the central U.S. late this week into the weekend. Effects on Southwest Virginia, however, will be limited.
A strong low-pressure system developing over Colorado and tracking northeast toward the western Great Lakes the latter half of this work week will be very bad news for flood-ravaged Nebraska, as it promises to dump 1 to 2 feet of snow on much of the state, which of course will eventually melt and further swell still not fully receded rivers.
It will also bring heavy rain and severe storms, with some tornadoes, possible over parts of the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio river valleys.
For our region, we’ll be removed from the more extreme effects, but there will be some showers and thunderstorms by Friday as a cold front moves through.
Yet another storm system forming behind this one is expected to sweep some Gulf of Mexico moisture across our region. With this storm tracking closer to us, we may see more rain, but probably still not a widespread flooding episode, on Sunday.
It looks like we get another dry Saturday between the storm systems, and it will continue to be mild to warm through the period, with 60s and 70s highs.
So, overall, typical spring weather will continue, neither hot nor cold, drought nor flood, for at least another week.
Weather Journal appears on Wednesdays.