Hurricane Florence Related USCG and Military Aviation Activity; 14 September 2018

Savannah – Throughout the week, as Hurricane Florence made her way toward the US east coast, I tried to keep an ear and eye on the skies for related US Coast Guard and military aviation activity. It seemed that some of the HC-130Js at CGAS Elizabeth City moved south to CGAS Clearwater and some helicopter assets staged at CGAS Savannah. USAF Reserve WC-130J “Hurricane Hunters” flew missions to Florence out of the Air Dominance Center at Savannah-Hilton Head IAP. I didn’t hear much before Friday due to my work schedule, but yesterday I was able to hear more yesterday after I got back to Savannah. I’ll be trying to devote some time to monitoring through the weekend to see what else happens.

Earlier in the week, while in Brunswick, I noted COAST GUARD 2002 (HC-130J, 2002, CGAS Elizabeth City) and COAST GUARD 2005 (HC-130J, 2005, CGAS Elizabeth City) heading southbound from CGAS Elizabeth City, NC to CGAS Clearwater, FL to stage until Hurricane Florence passed enough for them to return to Elizabeth City. Yesterday, 2005 seemed to be going back and forth between what looks like perhaps the Norfolk area and Clearwater.

C2005
ADS-B track of COAST GUARD 2005 (HC-130J, 2005, CGAS Elizabeth City) on 14 September 2018 from the ADS-B Exchange tracker. Note the wide track around coastal North Carolina and South Carolina to avoid Hurricane Florence.

As you can see in the COAST GUARD 2005’s track above, a lot of aircraft are avoiding coastal routes and moving around Florence inland. Good Jacksonville center frequencies for catching aircraft moving around the storm on the inland side are:

363.200/132.925 – Jacksonville Center Allendale/Savannah Low
269.025/127.575 – Jacksonville Center Waycross Low
323.300/133.700 – Jacksonville Center Baxley Low
282.300/135.975 – Jacksonville Center Alma High
346.300/133.300 – JacksonvilleCenter Moultrie Ultra High

Three WC-130Js (96-5302, 97-5306, and 98-5308) from the 53rd WRS flew Hurricane Florence “Hurricane Hunter” missions out of the Georgia Air National Guard Savannah Air Dominance Center throughout the week as Hurricane Florence made her way toward the east coast. A 403rd AW C-130J (05-8157) was also there for support. The WC-130Js used TEAL 7# and 8# callsigns and used 237.000, the Savannah ADC Ops frequency. The C-130J used the callsign HOBBY 11 and was noted on 225.750 with 165th AW Ops. All appeared to return to Keesler AFB yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday afternoon, it seemed that Coast Guard helicopter assets began heading to the area, with two MH-65s and an MH-60T departing CGAS Savannah to the north. COAST GUARD 6030 (MH-60T, 6030, CGAS Clearwater) and COAST GUARD 6544 (MH-65D, 6544, CGAS Savannah) left first, followed later by COAST GUARD 6567 (MH-65D, 6567, CGAS Savannah). All three returned to CGAS Savannah later in the evening. They were using 345.000 as air-to-air and with CGAS Savannah and CG 410 (413.000) encrypted and CG 127 (171.2375) encrypted/unencrypted with Sector Charleston.

An interesting development yesterday afternoon was an E-3B AWACS moving to the North Carolina area. At one point during the day, SENTRY 50 (E-3B, 75-0559, 552nd ACW) was orbiting in the Pensacola area, probably working with fighters from Eglin AFB or Tyndall AFB. Later, it left the Pensacola area and went up to orbit in the Charlotte, NC area. That’s well outside of my listening range, but my guess is that they were being used to control and/or coordinate air rescue activity related to Hurricane Florence. It will be interesting to see if other E-3s, Navy E-2Cs, or perhaps CBP P-3 AEWs show up over the next few days.

 

There will certainly be a lot more USCG and military aircraft heading to the North Carolina/South Carolina area as Hurricane Florence weakens and eventually moves out of the area. I can only imagine that there will be a lot of helicopter rescues due to the flooding being caused by Florence’s extended rains and very slow movement. I’ll be listening out for more activity headed that way from the south.

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