With Hurricane Dorian bearing down on Florida’s Atlantic coast, the Navy is sending ships and aircraft away from the expected storm track while the Coast Guard is warning commercial and recreational sailors to secure their crafts.
The commander of Navy Region Southeast ordered all Navy installations in the Mayport area to set Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness Three. This readiness setting means the Navy expects sustained destructive winds of greater than 50 knots associated with a tropical system to arrive within 48 hours.
Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center predicted Hurricane Dorian would strengthen into a major hurricane before making landfall on Florida’s Atlantic coast late Monday or Tuesday. It’s too early to predict where the storm will hit. However, the hurricane center expects most of Florida and much of Georgia and South Carolina will experience strong winds, heavy rain and a storm surge.
“Our top priority must always be the safety and security of our ships and aircraft, as well as our sailors and families. We move our ships and aircraft in order to mitigate potential damage. When maintenance status prevents storm avoidance, we take extra precautions to best protect these units,” Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet, said in a statement.
Cyclone-class patrol boat USS Shamal (PC-13) got underway Thursday, while Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG-82), USS Paul Ignatius (DDG-117) and USS Farragut (DDG-99) prepared to depart Naval Station Mayport on Friday. Littoral Combat Ships USS Billings (LCS-15) and USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) also prepared to leave on Friday, according to U.S. 4th Fleet.
Meanwhile, several ships are remaining in Mayport, and their crews are securing them ahead of the storm. Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG-66) and destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG-80), USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) will ride out the storm in port. Whidby Island-class dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43), Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) and Littoral Combat Ships USS Detroit (LCS-7) and USS Little Rock (LCS-9) will also remain in Mayport, according to 4th Fleet.
For ships remaining in Mayport, crews can take various actions to secure the vessels, such as connecting additional mooring and storm lines, dropping anchor and disconnecting power cables.
Nearby, at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, six squadrons from Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Eleven (CPRW-11) and Patrol Squadron (VP) 30 are evacuating to other locations throughout the southeast and mid-Atlantic, according to the Navy. Aircraft that cannot evacuate due to maintenance will be moved to hangars to ride out the storm.
The Coast Guard on Thursday started warning commercial shippers to prepare their vessels to leave Florida ports ahead of the storm’s arrival. In the Jacksonville area, the Coast Guard alerted mariners that bridges crossing the St. Johns River and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway will be locked eight hours before the hurricane’s anticipated landfall. Recreational boaters were warned to stay off the water and secure their boats.