YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- A tropical cyclone barreled toward U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka last week, but the 27,000 people who live and work on base as well as the assets of 71 tenant commands and 13 ships forward-deployed here were prepared.
In fact, Sailors and their families knew days before Jongdari made its presence known to stock their emergency kits and pantries or get U.S. 7th Fleet ships underway thanks to the tropical cyclone trackers at Naval Oceanography Antisubmarine Warfare Center (NOAC) Yokosuka.
"Tropical cyclones can have a devastating impact if not properly prepared for," said Captain Jeffrey Kim, commanding officer of U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, the largest U.S. Navy installation overseas. "NOAC Yokosuka plays a vital role in providing the information necessary to keep the Fleet Activities Yokosuka community safe."
Part of NOAC Yokosuka's mission is to protect resources such as Sailors, their families, buildings and ships at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, as well as neighboring Navy communities in Ikego and Yokohama.
They protect these precious resources by letting base leaders and the community know about daily weather and severe conditions on the horizon. The community can get this information by viewing NOAC Yokosuka's website at http://www.metoc.navy.mil/noacy/, television channel 16, or by calling the station, which is manned 24 hours a day/seven days a week.
"We're CFAY's one-stop shop for all weather information," said Lt. Miguel Green, an oceanography officer at NOAC Yokosuka.
Contrary to the occasional joke you may hear about weathermen, forecasting is not a guessing game and it's certainly not as easy as looking outside the window.
"If you simply nowcast, meaning what is currently happening, it is too late," said Green. "Commanders here on the water front, especially with the ships and number of assets we have here, want to know well in advance what severe weather is coming our way."
For Tropical Cyclone Jongdari, two teams of forecasters, analysts and Navy Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC) officers took turns working around the clock to analyze warnings from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, atmospheric models, and real-time measurements of wind and precipitation to make sure they knew when and where the tropical cyclone would hit.
They shared the information and Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness (TCCOR) recommendations with base leaders so that together they can make sure the community has timely and accurate information about the cyclone. During its passage to CFAY, Jongdari produced sustained winds of 46 knots and gusts of up to 51 knots, according to NOAC Yokosuka's weather sensors.
Tracking tropical cyclones takes laser sharp focus, considering the hours and days it could take before the cyclone arrives at its target. NOAC Yokosuka teams also have to be able to handle a fast-paced environment, especially as the cyclone draws near.
"It can get hectic," said Aerographer's Mate 2nd Class Brady Reynolds, who is an analyst at NOAC Yokosuka with three tropical cyclone seasons now on his resume. "As a tropical cyclone approaches, we are constantly busy refining our forecast, building decision support products and maintaining dialogue with other forecasting entities, CFAY, and the tenant commands and ships we support."
Tracking cylones also takes grace under pressure. There's too much at stake to get it wrong or take severe weather events lightly.
"You have to watch for all of these things," said Aerographer's Mate 1st Class Latricia Duarte, who is a forecaster at NOAC Yokosuka, referring to the JTWC warnings, models and real-time data NOAC Yokosuka observes. "You can feel the pressure because you know if things happen you'll have to brief base leadership and this is information that the base relies on."
Duarte says that is where years of experience, education and training comes into play. Aerographer's mates that are forecasters, for example, have an average four to five years of experience and training before they're able to do the job.
"We are very accurate, which shows all the training we do go through," Duarte said.
Lt. Green says he is proud to be a part of NOAC Yokosuka, recalling how he relied on their products even when he was stationed at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.. At the time in March 2011, NOAC Yokosuka was tracking winds as concern grew over radiological fallout following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.
More recently, he said the team provided wind forecasts that helped base leadership make a critical safety call prior to an open-base event that attracted thousands of host nation friends - just without tents that would be dangerous in the high winds that occurred that day.
"Any event that you are about to embark on, weather is the first thing you should look at," Green said.
NOAC Yokosuka is comprised of 46 Sailors and civilians who provide anti-submarine warfare commanders actionable environmental information to enhance battlespace awareness.
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