A U.S. Navy helicopter arrived at Maxwell AFB, Ala., on Wednesday after it was evacuated from Naval Station Mayport, Fla., ahead of Hurricane Dorian. Photo by Billy Burchfield/U.S. Navy
Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Military installations along the U.S. Southeast coast completed preparations and evacuations ahead of Hurricane Dorian on Wednesday.
The hurricane was rated at Category 5 when it struck the Bahamas and then diminished, bringing heavy rain and wind, as it slowly moved westward toward Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Navy ships based at Naval Station Norfolk and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia left their bases beginning on Monday evening, and will remain at sea until the storm subsides. Aircraft was either secured in hangars or flown to alternate airfields, and non-essential personnel were allowed to leave their posts and evacuate the region.
"Based on the current track of the storm, we made the decision to begin to sortie our Hampton Roads-based ships and aircraft [in Virginia]," said Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, on Wednesday. "This allows time for our assets to transit safely out of the path of the storm."
"Personnel at bases along the Atlantic Coast spent the weekend constructing and installing sandbags, removing hazards and debris from drainage areas, removing large items from waterfront areas, ensuring emergency generators and vehicles are topped off with fuel, and filling and preparing potable water supplies," a Navy statement said.
Over the weekend the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Charleston, S.C., began shutting down its operations, prior to a general evacuation by Tuesday evening. The Naval Submarine Base in Kings Bay, Ga., and Naval Station Mayport, Fla., shut down their operations ahead of the storm.
The U.S. Marine Corps moved up graduation ceremonies at Parris Island, S.C., and ordered active-duty personnel and dependents to evacuate, as did the nearby Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. Amphibious assault ships conducting training off the coast of North Carolina remained at sea and prepared to provide potential disaster relief, officials said.
On Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard began its involvement in medical evacuations in the Bahamas, supporting the Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency and the Royal Bahamian Defense Force. Helicopters of Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., forward-deployed to Andros Island in the Bahamas before the storm made landfall.
Maxwell AFB, Ala., used mainly for training purposes, opened as a supply center to receive trailers of food, water and other supplies sent by FEMA to aid residents affected by the hurricane. It also received evacuated helicopters moved from Naval Station Jacksonville in Florida.
"As we have for the last several hurricane seasons, the 42nd Air Base Wing and Maxwell Air Force Base are ready to support whole-of-government efforts to provide Americans emergency relief," said Col. Patrick Carley, 42nd Air Base Wing commander. "Maxwell is a prime location to provide emergency relief support and a safe haven location during severe weather."
Preparation for military evacuations began on Friday.
MacDill AFB, near Tampa, flew 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.
Ships and aircraft started departing from Mayport and Naval Air Station Jacksonville before Hurricane Dorian moved closer to the coast.