Military Bases Prepare for Hurricane Irene

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2011 — Mil­i­tary bases along the east­ern seaboard are secur­ing for the Cat­e­go­ry 3 winds and rain of Hur­ri­cane Irene, and the Defense Depart­ment is work­ing close­ly with the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency as part of the U.S. gov­ern­ment response, defense offi­cials said today.

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, Calif.
A GOES-13 infrared satel­lite image pro­vid­ed by the U.S. Naval Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry, Mon­terey, Calif., shows the sta­tus of Hur­ri­cane Irene at about 6 a.m. EDT, Aug. 24, 2011. Irene crossed over the Bahamas with 115-mph winds. The storm could strike the U.S. East Coast between Flori­da and the Car­oli­nas as a Cat­e­go­ry 3 hur­ri­cane.
U.S. Naval Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry image
Click to enlarge

The Defense Depart­ment is pro­vid­ing air and ground trans­porta­tion experts and defense coor­di­nat­ing offi­cers to work with state, local and oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies, process mis­sion assign­ments and coor­di­nate DOD resources in sup­port of FEMA, the lead fed­er­al agency. DOD facil­i­ties in and near Irene’s fore­cast path are tak­ing actions to alert, pre­pare and secure for the storm, offi­cials said.

The storm was in the north­west Bahamas this morn­ing, Nation­al Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter Direc­tor Bill Read said dur­ing a tele­phone brief­ing, mov­ing over the Aba­co Islands with sus­tained winds of 115 mph.

“The next area of con­cern as [Irene] exits the Bahamas is what the impact will be in North Car­oli­na,” he said. “We have a hur­ri­cane watch up now for most of the North Car­oli­na coast [and a] trop­i­cal storm watch through most of the South Car­oli­na coast,” Read added.

The storm is expect­ed to main­tain major hur­ri­cane sta­tus — winds of at least 115 mph — as it approach­es the coast of North Car­oli­na the morn­ing of Aug. 27, he said.

As the large storm pass­es through North Car­oli­na, Read said, res­i­dents should expect very high winds and trop­i­cal-storm-force and hur­ri­cane-force winds over a large area.

With the Nation­al Hur­ri­cane Center’s next advi­so­ry at 5 p.m. EDT, Read said, “we’ll prob­a­bly extend watch­es north­ward into the mid-Atlantic region.”

After it cross­es North Car­oli­na, he added, Irene is expect­ed to con­tin­ue mov­ing toward the north-north­east, poten­tial­ly bring­ing into play the Tide­wa­ter area of Vir­ginia, the Delaware-Mary­land-Vir­ginia penin­su­la and the low­er Chesa­peake Bay, at a min­i­mum.

“Any fur­ther devi­a­tion to the left could bring direct cen­ter impacts as far inland as the Wash­ing­ton-Bal­ti­more area,” Read said. “After that, the rest of the east­ern seaboard is well with­in the path of this storm.”

Irene will bring into play “all of the north­east cor­ri­dor for heavy rains, high winds and coastal storm flood­ing,” he added.

Impacts on the morn­ing of Aug. 28 are expect­ed to be on the Del­mar­va penin­su­la and the New Jer­sey shore. That after­noon and into the fol­low­ing morn­ing, the impacts will be in New Eng­land and New York, he said.

North and South Car­oli­na, Vir­ginia, Mary­land, Delaware, New Jer­sey and New York have begun prepa­ra­tions. State offi­cials have ordered manda­to­ry evac­u­a­tion for peo­ple in Hyde and Dare coun­ties and on Ocra­coke Island in North Car­oli­na.

In North Car­oli­na, Marine Corps Base Camp Leje­une, Marine Corps Air Sta­tion Cher­ry Point and Marine Corps Air Sta­tion New Riv­er have set Destruc­tive Weath­er Con­di­tion 4, defense offi­cials said, which means they project hur­ri­cane impact with­in 72 hours.

Navy squadrons in Virginia’s Hamp­ton Roads area will hangar or evac­u­ate air­craft tomor­row. Navy Vice Adm. Daniel P. Hol­loway, com­man­der of the 2nd Fleet, today ordered all ships in Hamp­ton Roads to be ready to get under­way to avoid dam­age if the storm is expect­ed to pro­duce at least 50 knots of wind and a 5-to-7-foot storm surge.

Navy Rear Adm. Mark S. Boensel, com­man­der of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, and Navy Rear Adm. Patrick J. Lorge, com­man­dant of Naval Dis­trict Wash­ing­ton, ordered emer­gency con­di­tions of readi­ness for their areas of respon­si­bil­i­ty.

Defense offi­cials say about 101,000 Nation­al Guard mem­bers are avail­able if need­ed to gov­er­nors of the affect­ed East Coast states, ter­ri­to­ries and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia.

In Puer­to Rico, where Irene struck Aug. 21, mem­bers of the Nation­al Guard’s 190th Engi­neer­ing Bat­tal­ion have been acti­vat­ed to clear roads and debris, trans­port equip­ment, sup­port com­mu­ni­ca­tions, per­form urban search and res­cue, and sup­port pub­lic safe­ty.

U.S. North­ern Com­mand will sup­port FEMA efforts along the East Coast and to Puer­to Rico and the Vir­gin Islands with resources and experts.

FEMA has pro­vid­ed $8 mil­lion in fund­ing to sup­port the assis­tance, which includes mil­i­tary experts, air and ground trans­porta­tion experts, emer­gency pre­pared­ness liai­son offi­cers and oth­ers.

North­com offi­cials have asked that the Joint Staff put 18 util­i­ty heli­copters in a 24-hour pre­pare-to-deploy sta­tus to help with inci­dent aware­ness and assess­ment. The com­mand also request­ed that U.S. Trans­porta­tion Com­mand put a mobile pub­lic affairs detach­ment on 24-hour pre­pare-to-deploy order sta­tus.

FEMA Admin­is­tra­tor Craig Fugate said his agency is pre-posi­tion­ing sup­plies at mil­i­tary bases in North Car­oli­na, Mass­a­chu­setts and New Jer­sey. Sup­plies include heavy-duty gen­er­a­tors, com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment, bot­tled water, shelf-sta­ble meals, baby and infant sup­plies, tarps and durable med­ical goods to sup­port shel­ter oper­a­tions, Fugate said.

“Our role right now is focused on sup­port­ing gov­er­nors as evac­u­a­tions are being ordered, as we’ve seen already on the Out­er Banks of North Car­oli­na, and as we antic­i­pate may be required fur­ther up the East Coast,” he said.

FEMA then will pre­pare for ini­tial response to the after­math of the hur­ri­cane by mov­ing sup­plies into these areas to have them ready to go.

“We often­times focus on the coastal res­i­dents, but … this will not just be a coastal storm,” Fugate said. “We can see impacts well inland, both from winds that can cause wide­spread pow­er out­ages as trees come down, espe­cial­ly due to the sat­u­rat­ed soil, and also flood­ing.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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