The CP-2 radar, soon to be mothballed, caught one of the most exciting events of its long lifetime. Erin's eye passed 85 kilometers south of the radar. Cocoa Beach and Patrick Air Force Base were under mandatory evacuation orders, so most NCAR staff were forced to leave. The NCAR-based C-130 aircraft took refuge in the Carolinas at Raleigh- Durham International Airport. Meanwhile, nine radar technicians and scientists battened down with the radar for 31 hours of continuous data collection.
"Winds at the radar were estimated at about 60 knots [31 meters per second], which the CP-2 dome had no problem with," reports Jim Wilson (ATD). "There were many rain bands and a well-defined eye. As Erin moved inland, a massive, rotating, stratiform area developed which eventually filled the eye." Although cloud tops were relatively low and no lightning was observed in the area, "some of the bands had rotating showers that produced small tornadoes."
This appears to be the first time a dual-polarization radar has documented a hurricane. These radars alternate signals that are polarized at right angles to each other, allowing scientists to deduce the shape and type of precipitation or cloud droplets. "This should be an excellent data set for evaluating polarization techniques to measure rainfall," says Jim. Aside from the hurricane, SCMS gathered much useful data on the incipient phase of cumulus clouds, according to Charlie. The project concluded on 14 August. --BH