Navy evacuates Jacksonville personnel, moves aircraft as storm nears
The U.S. Navy began evacuating personnel and repositioning much of its aircraft from Naval Air Station Jacksonville as Hurricane Frances barreled toward the Florida coast, the second major storm to threaten the state in three weeks.
Navy officials started the evacuation late Thursday, repositioning P-3 Orion aircraft from NAS Jacksonville and flying them to Fort Worth, Texas; Norfolk, Va.; and McConnell Air Force base in Kansas, according to a press release.
“The type of aircraft determines where they go, and these are existing agreements we have with the various bases,” NAS Jacksonville spokesman Bill Dougherty said. “Our goal is put them in a location that is away from the severe weather.”
The base’s S-3 Vikings left Friday for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and Naval Air Station North Island, Calif. The SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters left Friday for Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.; Norfolk and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.
Also, two logistics transporter C-40 Clipper, the military version of the large Boeing 737, left for Dallas and Norfolk, with a third flying to Rota, Spain, though that aircraft was making its normal run overseas, Dougherty said.
On the opposite side of the peninsula, Central Command and MacDill Air Force base also were taking precautionary measures, though there were no plans to evacuate the base as officials had done three weeks ago when Hurricane Charley hit. Charley missed the base, making landfall further south than predicted.
“Our preparation procedures are better refined from the recent practice we learned from Charley and we have a better collective appreciation of the power of a hurricane,” said Central Command spokesman Maj. Matt McLaughlin.
“People are taking it very seriously, especially in light of the tragic loss of life in central Florida three weeks ago.”
Hurricane Charley killed 27 people.