WASHINGTON — Ships have been sent to sea, recruits evacuated, events canceled and National Guard and active duty military are being positioned in advance of Hurricane Florence’s expected battering of the U.S. East Coast in a day or two.
The preparations began Monday as the Navy ordered about 30 ships in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia to leave before Florence makes landfall.
“Ships will be directed to areas of the Atlantic where they will be best postured for storm avoidance,” Pentagon spokesperson Col. Rob Manning told reporters. “Some units will not get underway due to maintenance status but will be taking extra precautions to avoid potential damage.”
Most of the Navy’s aircraft based in Virginia, Maryland and parts of Florida that are able to fly will be sortied to escape Hurricane Florence, to Army and Air Forces bases in Kentucky, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia and Alabama, Pentagon officials said.
Roughly 6,000 Marines recruits on Parris Island, South Carolina, started to evacuate to Georgia until the hurricane passes, only to have their orders changed. “With any decision, there is a degree of risk, and we assess the logistical efforts to move all personnel to logistics base Albany now exceed the risk of remaining at recruit depot Parris island,” Brig. Gen. James Glynn said in a posted statement.
However, all DoD schools at Fort Jackson in South Carolina are closed through at least Friday. Leadership at the base has canceled Basic Combat Training Family Day activities scheduled for Wednesday and the graduation ceremony scheduled for Thursday, to help prepare to receive military and civilian personnel and equipment being evacuated from the coast.
“In order to not impede current evacuation plans in any way or add to the anticipated heavy evacuation traffic, Fort Jackson leadership is asking all families who planned to attend BCT graduation this week to cancel their travel plans immediately,” according to a statement from Fort Jackson’s public affairs office sent to the media.
The graduation ceremonies will not be rescheduled, the statement said.
Fort Bragg in North Carolina will remain open and has been designated as s a staging area for relief supplies for post-hurricane assistance. Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia also will be a staging area, Manning said.
“At this time FEMA has about 100 tractor trailers staged here and more are inbound,” Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt, a DoD spokesman, said in an email to the media. “FEMA will direct when and where they’ll go in order to put the supplies to the best use. Fort Bragg does not provide supplies nor assistance to the local communities on our own. This is a state’s responsibility.”
National Guard troops have already been activated, Ophardt said. As of Wednesday morning, 1,600 have been activated in South Carolina, 1,500 of a potential 6,000 in Virginia, and 320 of a potential 7,000 in North Carolina, Ophardt said.
The Navy and Air Force already are dealing with fierce storms out in the Pacific. It just got through Typhoon Mangkhut, which struck Guam and the Marshall Islands, and is now readied for tropical storm Olivia’s hit on Hawaii. The Air Force is assessing damage to two B-52s that were unable to fly and get out of the path of Typhoon Mangkhut.