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Navy Will Sortie 30 Hampton Roads Ships to Escape Hurricane Florence

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This post has been updated with additional information from Naval Air Force Atlantic.

The Navy will send out nearly 30 ships to escape the effects of Hurricane Florence from its bases in Hampton Roads, Va. U.S. Fleet Forces announced on Monday.

Ships from Naval Station Norfolk and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek are completing final preparations to leave later this afternoon.

“Ships will be directed to areas of the Atlantic where they will be best postured for storm avoidance,” read the statement. “Some units will not get underway due to maintenance status but will be taking extra precautions to avoid potential damage. Commanding officers have a number of options when staying in port, depending on the severity of the weather. Some of these options include adding additional mooring and storm lines, dropping the anchor, and disconnecting shore power cables.”

Hurricane Florence is strengthening at sea and by tonight is expected to be classified as a major hurricane, with winds of more than 110 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. An accurate prediction of where the storm is most likely to make landfall will not be possible until later in the week, but the National Hurricane Center is warning residents from South Carolina to the Mid-Atlantic states to now start preparing for the storm.

“Florence is expected to become a strong Category 4 hurricane — nearly a Category 5 — just prior to landfall somewhere on the Southeast or Mid-Atlantic Coast on Thursday night,” reported The Washington Post on Monday.

Amphibious warship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) is set to arrive in Norfolk later today to pick up helicopters and supplies for potential disaster relief operations following the storm.

A spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic told USNI News on Monday aircraft at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va. and Naval Air Station Norfolk are also preparing to move aircraft if needed.

The U.S. Coast Guard also started pre-staging assets along the coast, from South Carolina to the Hampton Roads-region, over the weekend in anticipation of needing to quickly respond after landfall, according to Coast Guard news releases. The Coast Guard assists with rescue operations and with reopening ports closed due to debris and damaged navigation aids.

Even if the storm makes landfall further south than Hampton Roads, the National Hurricane Center warns the effects of the storm could be felt hundreds of miles away. The Hampton Roads area could start experiencing tropical storm force winds as early as late Wednesday night, according to predictions made Sunday evening by the National Hurricane Center.

The state of Virginia declared a state of emergency for the region Sunday. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) also issued a warning to residents via social media to prepare for the storm.

“Current forecast models indicate that Florence could strike the Carolinas and enter Central Virginia. possibly stalling and dropping more than 20 inches of rain in some areas. This will lead to widespread and dangerous flooding, inundation of roads and damaging infrastructure. Potential widespread power outages are also expected,” the VDEM statement said.

Officials also specifically warned residents of coastal regions to be prepared to evacuate.

“For coastal Virginia, some models are indicating a possible strike more directly on the Hampton Roads region. If this track becomes a reality. Coastal Virginians can expect significant flooding, damaging winds and storm surge flooding throughout the region. This track would require the Commonwealth to enact its tiered evacuation plan,” VDEM the statement continued.

The following is the complete Monday statement from U.S. Fleet Forces.

USFF Directs Norfolk Ships to Sortie Ahead of Florence, Installations Set TCCOR III

NORFOLK – Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command ordered all Navy ships in the Hampton Roads area to set Sortie Condition Alpha; ships are completing final preparations and will begin to sortie today, ahead of Hurricane Florence.

There are nearly 30 ships preparing to get underway from Naval Station Norfolk and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek as Hurricane Florence is forecasted to bring high winds and rain to the Mid-Atlantic coast. Ships will be directed to areas of the Atlantic where they will be best postured for storm avoidance.

Some units will not get underway due to maintenance status but will be taking extra precautions to avoid potential damage. Commanding officers have a number of options when staying in port, depending on the severity of the weather. Some of these options include adding additional mooring and storm lines, dropping the anchor, and disconnecting shore power cables.

“Our ships can better weather storms of this magnitude when they are underway,” said U.S. Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Christopher Grady in a news release earlier this weekend.

The number one mission is to protect the fleet, to include keeping our personnel and their families safe.

Additionally, Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic ordered all Navy installations in the Hampton Roads area to set Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness Three (III), meaning sustained destructive winds of greater than 50 knots associated with a tropical system are expected within 48 hours.

Navy installations in Hampton Roads have begun to prepare for the storm. Some preparations include securing hazards throughout the installations, removing debris from drainage areas, designating alternate parking areas for flood prone areas, sand bagging flood prone areas, topping off fuel in generators and government vehicles and relocating dumpsters and equipment to more secure areas.

All personnel and their families should review their Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System (NFAAS) account at https://navyfamily.navy.mil, as well as review hurricane checklists and evacuation plans in the event an evacuation is necessary. Service members are encouraged to discuss evacuation and reporting requirements with their chain of command and family members.

  • Ed L

    Wonder how many units will be sent up the River to Yorktown and Cheatam wharfs or to moored with the Dead Fleet.

    • wilkinak

      Norfolk Naval Shipyard is pretty well protected and closer for most. I rode out ISABEL there on a CVN. It was actually a pretty good deal. That sucker never moved. We had lights, hot water, AC and TV(most of the time). Added entertainment was watching the double wide parked on the flight deck blow apart. Only down side was my crazy roommate.

      I was glad I wasn’t on the sub or FFG parked next to us. I think it was 3 days before the water was below the pier.

    • tpharwell

      I hope the order covers that Navy’s last ocean going tug. It may be needed.

  • NavySubNuke

    I know I said this last storm but it is worth repeating – special thanks to those dependents left behind to ride out the storm while your hisband/wife/mom/dad takes their ship to sea to ride out the storm.
    Hurricanes headed towards the familynhomenare stressful enough for everyone involved but even more stressful for those left behind by sorties like this.

    • East Bound & Down

      Yup. That’s a tough assignment. I deployed with our aircraft to a safe location several times while leaving my wife and kid at home to face a hurricane. Not a good feeling! I pray they are ready and that God keeps them safe!

      • muzzleloader

        There are no less than 10 Air Force,Marine Corps and Naval air bases in the path of this hurricane. No less than 600 aircraft are being moved out of harms way.
        Prayers for the families staying behind.

      • Duane

        As long as people evacuate the coastal areas subject to storm surge and flooding as directed by local authorities, the danger from high wind is not much. Water is the killer. But there’s always a certain crowd that ignores the evacuation orders.

        As someone whose house was right under the path of the eyewall of the last two major hurricanes to make a direct hit on south Florida (Wilma in 2005, and Irma last year), the wind is impressive and a bit scary. But being several miles outside the evac zone we suffered little but damaged roofing and extended power outages, and a lot of debris and downed vegetation to clean up. My next door neighbor has a full home weather station with anemometer, and he recorded winds of 131 mph a year ago with Irma. Of course, our building codes in south Florida are the most stringent in the nation, with homes here required to be able to withstand winds of 171 mph.

    • Ed L

      I sent the wife and kids to cousins in Harrisburg Va years ago. she didn’t like it but she went. I got home before she did.

  • SpaceHoosier

    Looks like Camp Lejeune is preparing for an almost direct hit to Jacksonville, NC. Our Marine son is going to be bugging out and we’re providing some safer shelter in central NC for him and any of his Marine brothers. To all the rest: Stay safe!

  • RunningBear

    Best Wishes to all….
    after my 6 hurricanes here on the Gulf;

    Best advice: Please…..Turn Around, Don’t Drown!

    silly aside….
    not sure how the “draining the swamp” is going but He may have an opportunity to “flush” it with Flo….
    IMHO
    Fly Navy
    🙂

  • Ruckweiler

    Knew the Navy would do this. I’d be going West to personally avoid this storm.

  • tiger

    Surfs up!

  • TaskForce141

    I hope that some time in the distant future, the ships will have the technology to sortie to
    engage and destroy the hurricane.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Hope all are safe..