Everybody loves rainmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tara Fadenrecht
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Dark clouds began to roll in with heavy rain and wind. Just before the height of the storm an eerie silence fell over McConnell and the surrounding area as a forming tornado threatened to touch down and rip through the base.

Craig McPherson, 22nd Operation Support Squadron meteorologist technician, recalled the events leading up to and during a storm that transpired a few years ago.

That specific tornado touched down a few miles outside of McConnell and and nearly missed the base, but for 22nd OSS weather personnel, the storm was more than just an evening of heavy weather.

"We were already watching it about four to five days out," said McPherson. "We were monitoring the weather models just to make sure that everything was still lining up and that it was still progressing so we could notify wing leadership about what was going on."

Monitoring the storm and communicating potential danger to leadership kept thousands of people and millions of dollars in resources safe.

Tracking tornados is just one of the challenges weather technicians deal with to keep McConnell's assets safe on a daily basis.

Some of the most challenging weather that Master Sgt. Kathy Jaafar has dealt with is here at McConnell.

"There's a lot more activity here," said Jaafar, 22nd OSS weather technician. "It's the heartland of weather where all the systems funnel through."

The 22nd OSS weather technicians continuously monitor radars and gather readings from a tactical weather observing system to look out for potentially dangerous weather, said Staff Sgt. Tom Lapeer, 22nd OSS weather forecaster.

Their systems also transmit crucial data, such as wind speed and direction, to air traffic controllers to ensure that planes get safely in the air and back on the ground.

Whether they are forecasting for a winter snow storm or predicting temperatures more than 100 degrees, McConnell's weather team regularly deals with extreme conditions.

Lapeer has worked with weather in multiple locations around the world but hasn't seen anything that can compare to the weather here, he said.

"Some days I feel like I'm still trying to adjust to Kansas weather," said the Grand Rapids, Michigan native. "The storms are a lot stronger here. It's a night and day difference, so it stays interesting."

Though the challenges are great, the seven meteorologists that make up the weather shop understand the importance of what they do.

"Our job is to provide resource protection," said Jaafar. "Our main priority is the protection of the people and the assets at McConnell."