BILOXI, Miss. -- The U.S. Air Force's Hurricane Hunter aircraft will be flying off the Atlantic Coast Thursday evening, but they're not looking for hurricanes.
Instead, they are gathering extra atmospheric data to help forecasters get a better sense of the weather conditions ahead of the expected development of a potentially strong nor'easter this weekend.
The first flight of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron took off from their base in Biloxi, Mississippi Thursday afternoon and was heading off the North Carolina coast a little while later, eventually flying off the shores of New England.
Each mission is set to drop 10 dropsondes that measure various weather conditions and transmit that data back to meteorologists.
Weather forecasting models to this point are still showing quite a bit of variability in the potential track of the storm, which hasn't even formed yet but will begin to take shape Friday off the Carolinas.
The extra data provided by the Hurricane Hunters will help forecasters zero in on a more accurate track as the storm undergoes explosive development into a powerful storm Saturday evening.
The Hurricane Hunters routinely fly missions in the winter outside of hurricane season to track winter storms along the East and atmospheric river-type storms in the West.