Wednesday, August 11, 1999

4 recon planes coming
to track hurricane

See the Pacific satellite map in Weather

By Helen Altonn


Four reconnaissance aircraft are en route here to track Hurricane Eugene, which was about 980 miles east-southeast of Hilo early today.

The storm bears maximum sustained winds of 85 mph with gusts of more than 103 mph. Hurricane force winds extend 35 miles from the storm's center. Eugene is expected to pass south of the Big Island Saturday.

Hurricane Dora, about the same strength, is following much the same westward track behind Eugene, said Jim Weyman, director of the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

He said Eugene is showing some signs of weakening. As a precautionary measure, however, he said he called for three Air Force Reserve C-130s and the national "hurricane hunter" Gulfstream IV to provide fixes on the storm.

He said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's G-IV aircraft was expected to arrive today from the mainland. The C-130s will arrive at different times tomorrow.

The G-IV, developed with specific systems for hurricane surveillance, was in the Pacific in 1997 investigating Hurricane Linda.

A high speed, twin turbofan jet, it can fly at more than 40,000 feet, much higher than the C-130s, Weyman said.

"It's really kind of special that we're getting it out here," he said. "It doesn't penetrate the storm but flies around the edges and collects data from around the top of the storm and sides."

Global Positioning System dropsondes are released from the aircraft into the storm's center to transmit back information on the pressure, temperature, humidity and wind flow.

The C-130s are equipped to fly to 10,000 feet and penetrate the storm. So long as Eugene remains a threat, they will track it every six hours, Weyman said.

A 72-hour forecast puts westbound Eugene about 200 miles south of the Big Island's South Point by 2 a.m. Saturday with tropical storm force winds. It's expected to lose some of its punch as it moves northward over colder water.

In 1994, a very active hurricane season, 11 tropical cyclones were recorded, including five hurricanes, and most followed that route south of the Big Island, Weyman noted.

But he cautioned: "There's certain error associated with a forecast out that far, so we still need to be quite vigilant on this storm. That's why we're taking all due precautions in bringing the aircraft out here."

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