The Lost Hurricane/Typhoon Hunters VI: Typhoon Bess, October 12th, 1974

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:20 PM GMT on December 28, 2009

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It's getting to be the end of the year, and its time to conclude the 6-part series I began earlier this year honoring the memory of the hurricane and typhoon hunter missions that never returned to base. I've made a permanent link to the series on the "Articles of Interest" section of our tropical/hurricane page.

The most recent recent loss of a Hurricane Hunter flight came on October 12, 1974. An Air Force WC-130H (tail number 65-0965, call sign Swan 38), from the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based at Anderson AFB, Guam, was lost in the South China Sea while flying Category 1 Typhoon Bess. Bess had formed east of the Philippines on October 8, then passed over northern Luzon Island on the 11th, triggering flooding and landslides that killed 29 people and caused $9 million in damage. On the 12th, Bess emerged over the South China Sea as a minimal Category 1 typhoon with 75 mph winds, and "Swan 38" was sent out to provide reconnaissance information. The aircraft had only recently arrived at the 54th WRS after having been converted to WC-130H, and had previously spent eight years assigned to combat rescue as an HC-130H. Swan 38 departed Clark Air Base in the Philippines, and successfully completed its first penetration and most of an "Alpha pattern" peripheral track. They were preparing for their second penetration, on the north side of the storm about 400 miles northwest of Clark AFB, when the last radio contact came at about 2200. An investigation board later speculated the crew was on the final leg inbound to make a second fix when they encountered some catastrophic problem. No emergency communications were received. Four days of relentless searching by rescue aircraft and two surface ships proved unsuccessful, and the six crewmen were declared missing and presumed dead. The name "Bess" was retired from the active list of typhoon names as a result of the loss, and the call sign "Swan 38" was also retired. A plaque honoring the crew was affixed to the squadron building at Andersen AFB (the plaque was removed when the 54th closed in 1987, and it's whereabouts are currently unknown). The crew members, carried on AWS rolls as Killed In Action, were:

Capt Edward R. Bushnell
1Lt Gary W. Crass
1Lt Michael P. O'Brien
1Lt Timothy J. Hoffman
TSgt Kenneth G. Suhr
Sgt Detlef W. Ringler


Figure 1. Above: plaque dedicated to the crew of Swan 38 (WC-130H 65-0965), located at Kirtland AFB. Inset image, top left: Swan 38 during an engine-running crew change at Guam in 1974. Image credit: Tom Robison.

Sources: Air Reconnaissance Weather Association May 2008 Newsletter; New York Times 13 Oct 1974 58:1; http://www.awra.us/WhiskeyCharlie.html by Tom Robison, 1974 Annual Typhoon report of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Other notes:
The Air Force has had 24 weather reconnaissance missions that have resulted in loss of life; only three of these were typhoon flights. A full list of the missions is at the Air Weather Reconnaissance Association web site.

Special addendum: a Cold War mystery
September 10, 1956: An Air Force RB-50G Superfortress flying in the vicinity of Typhoon Emma was lost over the Sea of Japan. This was not a typhoon hunting aircraft, as is often reported. The aircraft was stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan, and assigned to the 41st Air Division, 5th Air Force, and was performing electronic of photographic intelligence of the Soviet Union, North Korea, and China. The military gave out a "cover story" saying that the aircraft was lost performing weather reconnaissance. From Bernie Barris of the Air Reconnaissance Weather Association, "This aircraft was NOT lost in a typhoon penetration, nor was it shot down by the Soviets, as was often speculated. It was an RB-50G on a Strategic Reconnaissance mission. Everything I've read is that they were on the fringes of the typhoon, but more than likely the plane was lost due to mechanical problems, which plagued the B-50 in the 1950's. The typhoon did impact search efforts. The Soviets never released any records of tracking or attacking this flight; it is one of those true Cold War mysteries."


Figure 2. A Popular Mechanics cover story from 1950 dramatized the dangers that the early typhoon hunters faced. From the article: "It is impossible for me to describe accurately or exaggerate the severity of the turbulence we encountered. To some it may sound utterly fantastic, but to me it was a flight for life. I have flown many weather missions in my 30 months with the 514th Reconnaissance Squadron. I have flown night combat missions in rough weather out of England, and I have instructed instrument flying in the States, but never have I dreamed of such turbulence as we encountered in Typhoon Beverly. It is amazing to me the ship held together as it did."

Next post
My final post of the year will be on Wednesday or Thursday. I plan to present my pick for the top U.S. weather story of 2009.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting jipmg:


how far down into florida?


Tallahassee maybe Orlando.....is possible! Its just long range model runs...but, there has now been several runs saying the same now....but i still need to get into into a 4-5 day window to have a lot of confidence!
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Quoting Drakoen:
GFS 00z still on with the Arctic outbreak:



What's even scarier is the GFSX 300MB forecast, setting up a long-wave trough from Maine to Arizona/New Mexico around 1-6 through 1-8-10.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
736. jipmg
Quoting TampaSpin:
It sure looks to me like a Snow Storm into Florida is certainly very possible if this is all in place......this could certainly be interesting come Wednesday and Thursday of next week.


how far down into florida?
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Quoting jipmg:
Sigh I hate ignorant people, this has little to do with this blog but, my friend I was showing him model runs during the hurricane season, and he would get all excited, and I tell him that long term models aren't reliable, but just to watch out. Then when what the models said didn't happen, he said "Oh the models suck, they are always wrong, its never ganna happen here, never, so I dont care" then I show him the current models, showing a major cold blast, and he is like "OH WHO IS FORECASTING THAT" and I said, no its a long term model run, and he is like "Oh wow they are always wrong, so its not ganna happen, bye" ...

I then tell him, well were do you think forecasting from meteorologist come from? And he is like, not models, because they are wrong.

That just really tiks me off.


Don't let ignorant people trouble you. People who like/love following the weather need to be able to picture in their minds several things at a time. Models cannot think like humans, so their forecasts are not always right. Try explaining to your friend that the long range models are used as a tool only, to put together what may happen!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
GFS 00z still on with the Arctic outbreak:

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30830
It sure looks to me like a Snow Storm into Florida is certainly very possible if this is all in place......this could certainly be interesting come Wednesday and Thursday of next week.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Quoting TampaSpin:
Look at days 7-10.....LOOKS like a South Snow storm still coming...




That's scary, bringing sub freezing temps all the way to Northern Mexico!!
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
LOOK at days 6-10 with the intense winds




Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
its already here dev on national radarmovin e ne



KOG, what you see may be a part of this storm in the future. This is what they're talking about moving westward towards New England, 00Z, 1-2-10 90HRS out, GFS Run, surface map:

Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Look at days 7-10.....LOOKS like a South Snow storm still coming...


Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
728. jipmg
Sigh I hate ignorant people, this has little to do with this blog but, my friend I was showing him model runs during the hurricane season, and he would get all excited, and I tell him that long term models aren't reliable, but just to watch out. Then when what the models said didn't happen, he said "Oh the models suck, they are always wrong, its never ganna happen here, never, so I dont care" then I show him the current models, showing a major cold blast, and he is like "OH WHO IS FORECASTING THAT" and I said, no its a long term model run, and he is like "Oh wow they are always wrong, so its not ganna happen, bye" ...

I then tell him, well were do you think forecasting from meteorologist come from? And he is like, not models, because they are wrong.

That just really tiks me off.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
I wonder if we'll see the like of the 1977, 1985 or 1989 cold outbreaks again Drakoen.


Sure would be interesting...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30830
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
The Jan 1985 freeze when it was 30 at MIA and 6 here is a little more impressive than the 1983 Christmas freeze on the 500 mb charts, but not much---and much warmer than in 1977.


The 1985 event showed 486dm on the 500mb charts with a strong low advecting up into the Canadian Meritimes with strong CAA behind the low. 510dm on the 1000mb-500mb charts reaches portions of the southern Tennessee River Valley around Northern Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30830
Quoting Bordonaro:


I can see why, read below, from the WFO Tauton, MA from 4:37PM today, they've got their hands full!

FRIDAY THROUGH SUNDAY...
12Z MODELS CONTINUE TO SHOW A POWERFUL OCEAN STORM DEVELOPING
FRI-SAT AT OR NORTH OF OUR LATITUDE ALONG WITH A TREND MORE
OFFSHORE. THE 12Z GFS IS ON THE NORTHERN EDGE OF MODEL SOLUTIONS
WITH ITS SURFACE LOW DEVELOPMENT. HOWEVER ECMWF AND GGEM ARE MUCH
FARTHER EAST WITH SURFACE LOW BOMBING OVER EASTERN GEORGES BANK. THE
UKMET IS THE FARTHEST WEST.

THIS MAY BE AN EVENT WHERE DESPITE THE TRACK OF THE SURFACE LOW
OCCURRING WELL OFFSHORE...ALL MODELS TAKE THE MID LEVEL LOW ACROSS
OR JUST SOUTH OF NEW ENGLAND. THIS WOULD RESULT IN SUFFICIENT MID
AND UPPER LEVEL LIFT /I.E. A NORLUN TYPE TROF/ TO PRODUCE A PLOWABLE
SNOW ACROSS MOST OF SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND. THEN BY SAT NIGHT OR SUN
THE MID LEVEL LOW CAPTURES AND PULLS THE OCEAN LOW WESTWARD TO JUST
EAST OF NEW ENGLAND...WITH SYSTEM BECOMING A SLOW MOVING VERTICALLY
STACKED LOW. THIS WOULD RESULT IN IMPRESSIVE WARM AIR ADVECTION
ALOFT WRAPPING CYCLONICALLY AROUND THE MID LEVEL LOW INTO THE
REGION...YIELDING IMPRESSIVE COMMA HEAD/TROWAL PRECIP ACROSS THE
AREA SAT AND INTO SUN.

FORECAST CONFIDENCE REMAINS LOW ESPECIALLY AT THIS TIME RANGE ON THE
DETAILS ON THE TIMING OF SHORT WAVE INTERACTION/PHASING INCLUDING
TRACK AND INTENSITY OF MID LEVEL CIRCULATION AND SURFACE LOW.

IF this happens, you're gonna have one BIG snowstorm.
its already here dev on national radarmovin e ne

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
so far forcaster on tv think this will be a northern new england block buster
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
The Christmas 1983 freeze does not look that impressive on the 500 mb heights and temps.


It does to me. 486dm at 500mb over the Northeast region and wide spread Arctic air with the longwave trough across the eastern 2/3 of the country.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30830
Quoting weathercrazy40:
national weather out of taunton mass has not updated their forcast since 430 pm makes me think they are going over a lot of info


I can see why, read below, from the WFO Tauton, MA from 4:37PM today, they've got their hands full!

FRIDAY THROUGH SUNDAY...
12Z MODELS CONTINUE TO SHOW A POWERFUL OCEAN STORM DEVELOPING
FRI-SAT AT OR NORTH OF OUR LATITUDE ALONG WITH A TREND MORE
OFFSHORE. THE 12Z GFS IS ON THE NORTHERN EDGE OF MODEL SOLUTIONS
WITH ITS SURFACE LOW DEVELOPMENT. HOWEVER ECMWF AND GGEM ARE MUCH
FARTHER EAST WITH SURFACE LOW BOMBING OVER EASTERN GEORGES BANK. THE
UKMET IS THE FARTHEST WEST.

THIS MAY BE AN EVENT WHERE DESPITE THE TRACK OF THE SURFACE LOW
OCCURRING WELL OFFSHORE...ALL MODELS TAKE THE MID LEVEL LOW ACROSS
OR JUST SOUTH OF NEW ENGLAND. THIS WOULD RESULT IN SUFFICIENT MID
AND UPPER LEVEL LIFT /I.E. A NORLUN TYPE TROF/ TO PRODUCE A PLOWABLE
SNOW ACROSS MOST OF SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND. THEN BY SAT NIGHT OR SUN
THE MID LEVEL LOW CAPTURES AND PULLS THE OCEAN LOW WESTWARD TO JUST
EAST OF NEW ENGLAND...WITH SYSTEM BECOMING A SLOW MOVING VERTICALLY
STACKED LOW. THIS WOULD RESULT IN IMPRESSIVE WARM AIR ADVECTION
ALOFT WRAPPING CYCLONICALLY AROUND THE MID LEVEL LOW INTO THE
REGION...YIELDING IMPRESSIVE COMMA HEAD/TROWAL PRECIP ACROSS THE
AREA SAT AND INTO SUN.

FORECAST CONFIDENCE REMAINS LOW ESPECIALLY AT THIS TIME RANGE ON THE
DETAILS ON THE TIMING OF SHORT WAVE INTERACTION/PHASING INCLUDING
TRACK AND INTENSITY OF MID LEVEL CIRCULATION AND SURFACE LOW.

IF this happens, you're gonna have one BIG snowstorm.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Well back in Jan 1940, Miami had upper 20s 3 nights in a row. The same cold snap that brought Atlanta its record of 5 days in a row with highs below freezing and 11" of snow. I'll have to look back at that one.


The NARR from PSU doesn't go back that far.

But, regarding those 850mb readings, there was also different placements and strength of the surface high pressure center when those Arctic air outbreaks occur. For example, in the 1983 event a 1065mb high pressure center advected down from Canada it center itself over Texas at 1050mb and provided strong cold air advection.

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30830
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Wow that's amazing that the 1989 cold wave didn't result in colder temps than the 1983 and 1985 cold waves---would almost expect mid 20s in Miami!


The 850mb temps don't always tell the whole story. Just gives an indication.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30830
national weather out of taunton mass has not updated their forcast since 430 pm makes me think they are going over a lot of info
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I posted last time that I will likely need help again for at least one of my friends who is in Florida right now and has to drive home to S. Ontario. I was also going to ask WunderBlogAdmin about why my post on the last blog was deleted, but I think it's probably due to the length. I was going to write my blog entry again but haven't found the time or ended up going on another website, sorry about the delay.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
anyone seeing any models saying maybe this one bombs se of cape cod instead of the gulf of maine and dumps on us here in se mass or they all pointing to the gulf of maine
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Jan 17-20 1977

Dec 24-26 1983

Jan 21-22 1985

Dec 23-25 1989

The maps I am looking at give the 500 mb temps but not the 850 mb temps.


1983: 0C
1985: 0C
1989: -10C

Those are for South Florida.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30830
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
How cold was the 850 mb level in south Florida in the 1977, 1983, 1985 and 1989 outbreaks I wonder.

It is interesting that the -30 C 850 isotherm was below us in the 1977 cold snap--we look to have been about -32 C here. That was the only time that 850 mb temps below -30 C ever were recorded here---but the low temp at the surface in the 1985 cold snap was 11 F degrees colder than in 1977.


If you can give me more specific dates in those years I can find out.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30830
Iron Mountain, Michigan (Airport)
Updated: 8:54 PM CST on December 29, 2009
11 °F
Clear
Windchill: 3 °F
Humidity: 73%
Dew Point: 4 °F
Wind: 5 mph from the South
Pressure: 30.26 in (Falling)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds: Clear -
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 1181 ft

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Drakoen, how likely is accumulating snow of an inch or more on the south GA coast if the models verify?


It depends on which model. The GFS would probably just give you a dusting. The ECMWF 00z would give you significant accumulation; the ECMWF 12z much less in precip.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30830
GFS 12z 850mb temp anomalies:



850mb temps:

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30830
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
The worst Florida freeze ever occurred on this date in 1894. On that day, the temperature at Orlando sunk to an all-time record low of 18 degrees. Two months later, another cold spell helped to destroy 98% of the Florida citrus trees.


KOG, what is Environment Canada's take on the Siberian/Arctic Outbreak? Do they indicate when/where they expect the frigid outbreak to flood into the US?
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
The worst Florida freeze ever occurred on this date in 1894. On that day, the temperature at Orlando sunk to an all-time record low of 18 degrees. Two months later, another cold spell helped to destroy 98% of the Florida citrus trees.
One of the freezes, either 1894-95 or the 1899 it was said the only grove that survived was on Merritt Island. Simply because it was surrounded by the water, which prevented severe damage.
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Quoting Drakoen:
The GFS and ECMWF don't agree on the timing of the coldest air but both models show an Arctic breakout.


Hallelujah, it's about time they agreed.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
The GFS and ECMWF don't agree on the timing of the coldest air but both models show an Arctic breakout.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30830
The worst Florida freeze ever occurred on this date in 1894. On that day, the temperature at Orlando sunk to an all-time record low of 18 degrees. Two months later, another cold spell helped to destroy 98% of the Florida citrus trees.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
press, you got mail..:)
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Quoting gregpinehurstnc:
forgive me presslord.. it was back in the 80s, i had to serve shecrab soup. make the cocktails , btw,, were you my boss??


not likely...but could very well have been a customer...
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Arlington, TX around 4:15PM today, gotta love this El Nino!!

Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
hey everyone, hope your holiday was great. looks like we have a few rainy days ahead of us. thought i'd share this story about the missing sea lions:

Link
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Is there anyway that I can have my cake and eat it too?..I would love some snow but without the cold air!..lol
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forgive me presslord.. it was back in the 80s, i had to serve shecrab soup. make the cocktails , btw,, were you my boss??
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Quoting mara0921:
Its looking like for South Florida there will be 2 possible freezes, one towards Thursday Jan 7th and then a Siberian Express around Monday the 10th? I see what the Greenland Block and the big ridge out west means now. This is just like Jan 1977 except theres an El Nino. So there may be multiple shots at snow so dont worry if we dont get any next week. We may be quite sick of the cold in 2 weeks


or quite sick from the cold bundle up!!!
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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