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Florida military posts evacuate aircraft as Hurricane Dorian approaches

By
Ed Adamczyk
An aircrew of the 91st Air Refueling Squadron walks toward a KC-135 Stratotanker at MacDill AFB, Florida, on August 29, 2019, A departure of departure of the KC-135’s was ordered in preparation for Hurricane Dorian. Photo by A1C Shannon Bowman/U.S. Air Force
An aircrew of the 91st Air Refueling Squadron walks toward a KC-135 Stratotanker at MacDill AFB, Florida, on August 29, 2019, A departure of departure of the KC-135’s was ordered in preparation for Hurricane Dorian. Photo by A1C Shannon Bowman/U.S. Air Force

Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Military posts in Florida began preparations for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian with evacuations of personnel and aircraft.

The hurricane is expected to reach Stage 4, with 140 mph winds, when it makes landfall on Monday or Tuesday on the east coast of the state. Heavy rainfall and storm surges are anticipated.

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MacDill AFB, near Tampa, is flying 16 to 18 of its fleet of 24 KC-135 Stratotankers to McConnell AFB in Kansas to wait out the storm. The massive planes are used to refuel aircraft in midair, and will return to Florida when conditions return to normal.

No personnel evacuations have been ordered at MacDill, but base leaders said they are in communication with county emergency management officials. The base is located on the western side of the Florida peninsula.

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Col. Stephen Snelson, 6th Air Mobility Wing Commander at MacDill, said on Thursday that base officials recently visited Tyndall AFB in Panama City, Fla., to learn about hurricane preparedness. That base was nearly destroyed 10 months ago by Hurricane Michael.

Naval Air Station Jacksonville prepared for the hurricane with sandbags, and six of its Navy squadrons relocated their aircraft to other bases on Friday. Ships at Jacksonville's Naval Station Mayport, including guided-missile destroyers USS Lassen, USS Paul Ignatius, USS Farragut, along with the littoral combat ships USS Billings and USS Milwaukee, are expected to leave on Friday.

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Homestead Air Reserve Base, near Miami, which was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and rebuilt, evacuated its F-16 fighter planes earlier this week. No personnel reside at the base.

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Patrick AFB, near Orlando, closed its recreational facilities and family centers, and its medical services have been curtailed.

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