BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Hurricane Hunters of Keesler Air Force Base don't have to be inside a hurricane to help people on the ground. And their work is not just for this country. It's also for others in vulnerable areas whose lives literally depend on what information Hurricane Hunters provide.
The annual Caribbean Hurricane Awareness Tour took a 25-member group of Hurricane Hunters and members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane forecasters to two Mexican and five Caribbean cities.
"It's a great feeling," said Lt. Col. Jon Talbot, chief meteorologist for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. "You get to meet everybody and explain to them how you do your job. And they get to tell us how much they rely on us for their information. It's amazing how many people in the Caribbean region rely on the information from these aircraft and they know all about us. We are well known in that part of the world."
The trip attracted up to 15,000 people, many of those were school children. The outreach program began in the 1970s and is conducted prior to hurricane season.
The Hurricane Hunter tour isn't over yet. Beginning in May, the Hurricane Hunters will begin the East Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour from Halifax, Nova Scotia, all the way to the Florida Keys.
On this trip, Caribbean officials were updated on how to use the information provided by the Hurricane Hunters.
"You really can't evacuate there," he said. "So you have to kind of shelter in place, and it's very important that they know how strong the winds are so they can put people in the right shelters because you're limited to what you have structure wise on some of these islands."
Talbot said it's worth the effort to help protect a vulnerable region.
"We provide a lot of the aid to a lot of these countries after a disaster, so if we can help them prepare better, then maybe that will reduced how much aid we have to provide, but it saves lives."