Installations Gear Up for Hurricane Isabel
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2003 With Hurricane Isabel sweeping across the Atlantic and expected to make landfall Thursday or Friday, military bases along the East Coast are taking steps to protect people, ships, aircraft and facilities from potential destructive winds and water.
Ships were being ordered out to sea, aircraft were flying west, and installations throughout the mid-Atlantic were bracing for the potential of maximum sustained winds near 115 miles per hour. In addition, news reports said the Navy was calling for the voluntary evacuation of all its personnel in advance of the hurricane's approach.
Meanwhile, the Air Force Reserve's 53rd Reconnaissance Squadron "Hurricane Hunters" were preparing for two additional missions Wednesday to provide the latest weather data to the National Hurricane Center.
No states have mobilized their National Guard troops as of Tuesday morning, although the state of Virginia declared a state of emergency Monday, allowing the governor to call members to state active duty if needed.
Vice Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the U.S. Second Fleet, ordered 40 Hampton Roads, Va.-based ships and submarines to get under way and to remain at sea until the threat from the storm subsides. Navy Lt. Scott McIlnay, public affairs officer for Navy Atlantic Fleet, said sorties from southeastern Virginia were expected to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
McIlnay said the entire fleet was expected to vacate the area by the day's end. Many of the fleet's vessels, including a carrier strike group, were already at sea when Hurricane Isabel started brewing, he said, and about 30 ships undergoing maintenance will remain in port.
Navy officials said ships to leave port include the USS Bataan (LHD 5); USS Porter (DDG 78); USS Cape St. George (CG 71); USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81); USS Mitscher (DDG 57); USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79); USNS Kanawha (T-AO 196); USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76); USS George Washington (CVN 73); USS Bulkeley (DDG 84); USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); USS Ross (DDG 71); USS Ramage (DDG 61); USS Elrod (FFG 55); USS Normandy (CG 60); USS Monterey (CG 61); USS Mahan (DDG 72); USS Mason (DDG 87); USS Laboon (DDG 58); USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198); USS Kearsarge (LHD 3); USS Wasp (LHD 1); USS Shreveport (LPD 12); USS Oak Hill (LSD 51); USS Trenton (LPD 14); USS Ponce (LPD 15); USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44); USS McFaul (DDG 74); USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8); USS Seattle (AOE 3); USS Detroit (AOE 4); USNS Patuxent (T-AO 201); and USNS Sirius (T-AFS 8).
Meanwhile, Air Force officials said several bases could potentially be affected by Hurricane Isabel: Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.; Pope Air Force Base, N.C.; Langley Air Force Base, Va.; Dover Air Force Base, Del.; Andrews Air Force Base, Md.; Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C.; and Maguire Air Force Base, N.J.
2nd Lt. Beverly Mock, a public affairs officer at the Seymour Johnson, near Goldsboro, N.C., said the base planned to begin relocating its 74 F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., beginning at noon today. Mock said the aircraft were expected to reach Tinker by early afternoon.
Air Force officials said no decision had yet been made Tuesday morning about other aircraft relocations. If relocation plans are put into place, Dover Air Force Base would relocate its C-5 aircraft fleet to Fort Campbell, Ky. Andrews would move its helicopter and fixed wing fleet to Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Langley Air Force Base would relocate its aircraft to Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind.
The Marine Corps, with several installations along the East Coast between Virginia and South Carolina, including four air stations, is moving its aircraft west. Lt. Col. Bryan Sallas, public affairs officer for Marine Corps Forces Atlantic, said affected installations are Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and Marine Corps Air Stations Cherry Point, N.C., and New River, N.C. Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., had no plans as of Tuesday morning to relocate its aircraft. As of Tuesday morning, Camp Lejeune planned to evacuate a small mobile home park on the base.
Also potentially within Hurricane Isabel's trajectory, Sallas said, are the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., and Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
Army officials at Fort Bragg, N.C., said a decision was expected today about whether the post would relocate its aircraft from Simmons Army Airfield. Fitness centers on the post were expected to remain open if necessary as evacuation sites for any displaced residents.
Meanwhile, the 53rd Reconnaissance Squadron has already been at work gathering data about Hurricane Isabel to relay to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
According to Staff Sgt. Michael Duhe, public affairs spokesperson for the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., the squadron conducted an 11-hour, 3,500-mile aerial weather reconnaissance mission directly into Isabel on Saturday and has two additional missions planned for Wednesday, Sept. 17. Duhe explained that the aircraft crisscrosses the hurricane, using onboard instruments small canisters dropped by parachute to provide the most accurate measurement of the storm's location and intensity.
National Hurricane Center officials said Hurricane Isabel weakened slightly Monday but was still a powerful Category 3. Forecast models showed the storm hitting the East Coast anywhere from North Carolina to New Jersey later this week.