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Military Taking Precautions as Hurricane Dennis Approaches

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 8, 2005 – Hurricane Dennis is bearing down on the United States, and the military -- like others in the path of this Category 4 storm -- is taking precautions.

Dennis is moving toward the Florida Keys. The storm has sustained winds of more than 131 miles per hour and could strengthen, said officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If the storm continues its current track, it would hit somewhere along the Florida-Alabama-Mississippi coast sometime July 10.

Air Force officials said Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is being evacuated. Also affected are Hurlburt Field, Duke Field and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, and Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Officials have also ordered planes off Naval Air Station New Orleans.

The Navy is evacuating facilities in Pensacola and Key West, Fla. The Key West evacuation will be finished today. Pensacola will be secured July 9, officials said. Aircraft from the facilities will evacuate to Millington, Tenn., Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, and Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

The Navy will move ships from Pascagoula, Miss., and New Orleans.

National Guard troops in Florida have been alerted to "fight" on two fronts: Key West and Pensacola. Guardsmen in the Miami area have been alerted to go to Key West if needed July 9 as Dennis passes. Others in the state stand ready if Dennis keeps on its current path.

"It's important for the people of Florida to know the citizen-soldiers and airmen of the Florida National Guard are prepared to respond to Hurricane Dennis as assigned by the Florida Division of Emergency Management," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, Florida's adjutant general of Florida.

Officials said the Guardsmen are ready. Four hurricanes hit the state last year, with about 6,000 guardsmen responding. The Florida National Guard has more than 8,000 members.

Guardsmen in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia also have been put on alert.

If the storm is too much for one state's assets to handle, troops from other states can help under a process known as Emergency Management Assistance Compacts, officials said.

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