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DoD, Guard, Services Watch Hurricane Wilma

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2005 – The military is in a position of watchful waiting as Hurricane Wilma churns through the Caribbean.

Wilma is now listed as a Category 5 hurricane. Weather service officials estimate it will lose some strength as it pushes northward, but it will still pack a powerful punch if it hits the western coast of Florida on the weekend as expected.

Officials in Florida said 8,000 National Guardsmen could be called on to help. As the storm nears land, Guardsmen will be called up as needed and assigned where needed, said National Guard Bureau officials.

Computer modeling of the storm show it hitting Florida anywhere between Key West to the south and north of Tampa-St. Petersburg. Officials said they will wait for more clarity on where and when the storm will hit before finalizing emergency preparations.

Navy officials are in much the same state. The Navy is watching the storm carefully. There are few aircraft at Key West Naval Air Station, officials said, but they will be evacuated as needed. Officials at the National Hurricane Center in Florida are forecasting a Hurricane Watch for the Florida Keys for Friday, with a Hurricane Warning for the region some time thereafter.

Officials said the Navy and Air Force will stand by ready to help if called upon, adding that the services' responses will depend on the track the storm ultimately takes.

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