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Military Readies for Frances' Fury

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2004 – Hurricane Frances is going to be very bad storm.

The hurricane now over the Bahamas is a Category 4 storm and has sustained winds of 144 mph with gusts reaching 185 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The storm is projected to hit South/Central Florida Sept. 4.

Like the other residents of the southeastern United States, the military is bracing for the storm. Some bases already have been affected.

The National Guard is the component most affected. In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush had alerted 7,000 National Guardsmen for service in the state. Georgia officials said they have alerted guardsmen, but will see how the storm tracks before calling up personnel.

In North Carolina, officials have alerted 5,000 guardsmen in anticipation of the storm. If the National Weather Service track is correct, the storm would move over Florida into Georgia and up through the western portions of the Carolinas. The weather service said once Frances reaches land, it will lose some of its power and become a tropical depression. The storm, however, would still pack a great deal of rain.

Even with the weather service's best, current information, officials point out that forecasting hurricanes still is an inexact science. Hurricane Charley's movement in August proved that.

Charley was forecast to move over Tampa, Fla. It turned sharply, and the Category 4 storm surged over Captiva Island and Punta Gorda instead. Florida is still cleaning up the aftermath of that storm.

Even so, defense installations prepare for Frances. Off shore, the Navy's Andros Island Underwater Testing and Evaluation Center in the Bahamas has been evacuated. Navy officials said 50 personnel are remaining in the facility as the hurricane covers the islands.

The Air Force has made plans to evacuate aircraft out of Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., and Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

Aircraft based at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., are moving to safer areas.

No ships have been ordered to safer areas as yet, Navy officials said. However, vessels in Mayport, Fla., and Kings Bay, Ga., will take precautions as the storm nears.

Marines at Parris Island, S.C., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., will monitor the storm and take actions as needed. "It is a holiday weekend," said Marine officials. "We hope that Marines on pass pay attention to the weather situation."

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