Thanks to a fast-moving Hurricane Nate and minimal damage compared to recent storms, the Navy’s preparations to offer North Gulf Coast disaster relief were never needed.
On Friday, amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD-21), and elements from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, were ordered to move into the Gulf of Mexico ahead of Tropical Storm Nate, which was then expected to make landfall somewhere along the coast between Louisiana and Alabama.
The idea was for the Navy to be in position to quickly respond to requests for disaster relief after the storm made landfall. Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, Adm. Phil Davidson, ordered the ships to move on Friday, shortly after the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch and storm surge warning for the northern gulf coast, according to a Navy statement released Friday.
Nate made landfall in Louisiana at the mouth of the Mississippi River, and again in Alabama early Sunday as a category 1 hurricane. Flooding and power outages to about 100,000 customers were reported as the storm moved inland, according to the National Weather Service. But the Weather Service also reported Nate quickly weakened as it moved towards the Carolinas Sunday and Monday.
Sunday, Navy officials determined civilian disaster relief authorities were not likely to request assistance from the Navy. New York, which left its homeport of Mayport, Fla., on Saturday, was ordered to return, according to a Navy spokesperson. Iwo Jima was in the process of having some minor repairs made before steaming to the Gulf, never left Mayport and was ordered to remain.
Both ships are now in Mayport, said a Navy spokesperson. In early September, Iwo Jima and New York were positioned near the Florida Keys, providing disaster assistance in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Sailors and Marines cleared debris from roadways, distributed food and water, and other supplies to the area, according to the Navy.