Florida military bases prepare for Tropical Storm Isaac
Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach
With Tropical Storm Isaac making its way toward an expected landfall on the northern Gulf Coast, local military bases are preparing for its potential impact.
Hurlburt Field officials made the decision Saturday to fly the majority of their planes to Little Rock Air Force Base for safekeeping. Evacuation flights started early Sunday morning and were expected to continue into Monday, officials said.
“We’re going to send our aircraft out of here,” said Col. Doug Dudley, mission support commander for the 1st Special Operations Wing. “We want to get them out of here to maintain the mission.”
Crews and needed equipment were traveling to Arkansas by vehicle convoy.
Eglin Air Force Base officials met late Sunday afternoon and determined that although the storm appeared to be shifting to the west, it was still likely to bring significant winds to the area.
“Based on the current information we have looked at, we have made a tentative decision to launch the aircraft assigned to the 53rd Wing as well as the 96th Test Wing,” said Andy Bourland, director of public affairs for the 96th Test Wing.
He said the planes would likely fly out Monday afternoon.
The 19 F-35s attached to the 33rd Fighter Wing will remain at Eglin. Those jets will be stored in hangars built to withstand up to 145 mph winds, according to base officials.
“We will hangar our 19 F-35s, which is nine Air Force variant and 10 Marine Corps variant,” said Maj. Karen Roganov, spokeswoman for the 33rd Fighter Wing. She added that one of the Marine Corps jets belongs to the United Kingdom.
“We will also hangar the four F-16s on loan to the 33rd Fighter Wing on loan from Luke Air Force Base that provide support to the Marine Corps variants,” she said.
As of Sunday night, no evacuations had been ordered for local military personnel, though both Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base anticipated some closures and restrictions should conditions worsen.