From late June to late September, monsoon season not only brings with it heavy rains and severe thunderstorms, but also sends a surge of personnel from the 25th Operational Weather Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., right to the unit’s operations hub.
“It’s definitely a lot more busy,” said Airman 1st Class Cody Leahy, 25th OWS forecaster. “We issue a lot more watches, warnings and advisories for each zone.”
The 25th OWS adjusts its operations by taking into account the cyclic and predictable behavior of monsoon.
“We have extra workers on the floor during the day time and into the evening hours,” said Master Sgt. Ann Barrett, 25th OWS superintendent.
Rain isn’t always the problem with monsoon season.
“The biggest risk with the thunderstorms isn’t necessarily the rain, but the winds associated with them,” Leahy said.
Both winds and lightning within close proximity hinder airfield operations at Davis-Monthan AFB.
“Cross winds, which are winds that blow across the runway, instead of up and down the runway, anything over 15-25 knots can stop the A-10 operations,” Barrett said.
While precautions exist, such as lightning within five miles, many times forecasters must decide whether or not to shut flying operations down, or proceed as scheduled.
“We usually err on the side of caution,” Leahy said. “Because that’s personnel, that’s aircraft, that’s millions of dollars, (and those are) peoples’ lives.”
Despite the challenges and increased tempo during monsoon season, the 25th OWS remains busy year-round. After monsoon season is over, forecasters monitor the weather activity in the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
“We shift from being busy with the desert for monsoon season then we shift up north,” Barrett said. “We don’t get a break.”