The U.S. Air Force began evacuation of its aircraft and helicopters in preparation for ‘catastrophic’ Category 5 Hurricane Dorian.
At MacDill Air Force Base, just outside Tampa, Florida, measures were underway to protect a wide range of observation planes, search-and-rescue planes, helicopters, and fighter jets from estimated 60 mph winds and heavy rain.
According to the current information, the MacDill Air Force Base is removing KC-135s from the 6th Air Mobility Wing to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas due to the projected winds.
The smaller combat aircraft tend to have hardened hangers for protection. But for larger aircraft it is not so easy: the base dispatched its fleet of KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling tankers to McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas on August 30.
A military contractor at MacDill told Insider that preparations there were the biggest since the run-up to the devastating Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
MacDill is home to the US military regional Central Command, which is the administrative headquarters for US military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Officials at Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, the home of the 45th Space Wing, have also been closely monitoring Dorian’s progress, alerting families there to prepare.
A-10 Thunderbolt II and HC-130J Combat King II aircraft were deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, to Little Rock AFB, Arkansas. Little Rock AFB provided support ahead of Hurricane Dorian to keep Airmen and Department of Defense assets safe of harm’s way until they can return to their home station.
Also, Florida Air National Guard F-15 Eagle fighter jets were evacuated to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Aug. 30, 2019.
The very unpredictable nature of Dorian’s movements has made planning tough on military officials.
What was expected to be a Category 4 storm hitting southern Florida spent the weekend turning into a Category 5 storm. It is now expected to move up the east coast towards the Carolinas and southern Virginia.
This new path puts it in the track of military bases that are only beginning to evacuate planes and bolster defenses against high winds and storm surge.
The storm’s new direction led jets and transport planes at Fort Stewart, Georgia, to be flown further up the east coast.
While the storm is unlikely to disrupt these operations, the families of deployed soldiers have been warned to protect housing, fill essential prescriptions and store food and water.
The US military does not release the number of people living at Fort Stewart who are dependents of deployed soldiers. But one former member of the Ranger regiment — who asked for anonymity when discussing foreign deployments — put the number in the “low hundreds if not higher.”
Dorian update. Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield remains in the error cone. We could see impacts mid to late next week and residents are still encouraged to prepare for any potential impacts to our area. Use https://t.co/AVM9xVzyIv for a real-time snapshot of road conditions. pic.twitter.com/AOHJ2rFXYq
— Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield (@USAGStewartHAAF) September 1, 2019
As the military evacuates or battens down its facilities across the threatened region, it will have far less air traffic to deal with as commercial airlines and airports continue to shut down or reroute operations due to the storm.
As of early Monday morning, an estimated 1,000 flights had been canceled in the United States, almost all of them directly related to Dorian, according to the website FlightAware.
The storm’s track was initially forecast to the make direct landfall on Florida’s east coast early next week, but the most recent forecast has shifted the storm’s track with the most intense part of the storm now expected to remain off the coast of eastern Florida.
While Hurricane Dorian is not expected to make direct landfall in eastern Florida, the storm is forecast to impact cities along the Florida coast. Cities along Florida’s coast that are expected to be impacted by the storm include Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Daytona Beach, and Jacksonville.
Current models indicate that Hurricane Dorian will exit the Florida coast late in the day on Wednesday. The storm is also expected to impact communities along the coast of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.