Amphibious warships USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and USS Oak Hill (LSD-51) are positioned to support hurricane relief efforts, if civilian authorities make a request for assistance.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the civilian agencies spearheading the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts had not made a formal request for support from the Navy, U.S. Fleet Forces Command spokesman told USNI News.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency would ultimately be the organization to request Navy assistance to the Gulf Coast region. But with another powerful hurricane approaching the U.S., the possibility now exists for Kearsarge and Oak Hill to be sent to assist recovery efforts elsewhere.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the Caribbean, with U.S. territories and potentially the south Atlantic states in its path, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center.
At the time, Irma had reported sustained winds of 185 mph, and was classified as a category 5 hurricane – the most powerful rating, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In comparison, Hurricane Harvey had sustained winds of 130 mph and was a category 3 storm when it made landfall.
Hurricane warnings were issued Tuesday for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, Florida officials started mobilizing National Guard units and preparing for the storm to hit the state.
Tuesday afternoon, all tourists were ordered to evacuate the Florida keys by Wednesday morning, and for all year-round residents to evacuate by Wednesday evening, according to the Monroe County emergency management office. The governor of Florida declared a state of emergency for the entire state, and asked President Trump to declare a pre-landfall state of emergency for Florida.
With Irma’s path uncertain, and the potential for catastrophic damage in U.S. territories, southern states, and Caribbean nations, Kearsarge and Oak Hill are essentially in a holding pattern, Fleet Forces said.