How Florence is affecting area bases
By ROSE THAYER AND COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 15, 2018
Navy ships and aircraft started heading back to Hampton Roads on Saturday and will return to homeports over the next several days, according to the Navy. MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters of HSC-7 were recalled from the USS Abraham Lincoln and have already landed at Naval Station Norfolk to be better positioned to provide support in the aftermath of Florence.
In North Carolina, Marines and soldiers at installations that felt the brunt of the storm were still working Saturday to assess damage and warned that flooded streets and tornado threats should keep everyone who wasn’t required to report to stay sheltered.
Camp Lejeune in North Carolina weathered the first effects of Hurricane Florence on Friday with widespread power outages and Marines at Air Station New River shared video of the commanding officer's drive around the base to assess damage.
In South Carolina, the National Guard said it had poised assets near its northern border to assist North Carolina as they continue to experience unprecedented rain and flooding. In addition to its more than 3,200 soldiers and airmen on duty, they have support from the Pennsylvania National Guard.
Soldiers at Fort Jackson in South Carolina braced for the storm’s effects, expected to hit there in the coming days.
“We continue to stock supplies and posture ourselves for immediate recovery actions,” Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle Jr., the post commander, said on Facebook on Friday morning.
Further down the South Carolina coast away from the storm, it was business as usual at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island. Photos posted Friday on the base’s Facebook page showed recruits conducting drill practice and martial arts training. Saturday, Brig. Gen. James Glynn and Sgt. Maj Rafael Rodriguez said in a video that they have continued their training all around the installation and are on track for a graduation on Friday, as scheduled.
Here’s a rundown of information from some of the installations that continue to be affected by Hurricane Florence or are involved in relief efforts.
Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Saturday morning, the installation posted to its official Facebook page that anyone who needs to return to base should first call for reporting instructions. "Our leadership is aware of the travel challenges across the region," the Facebook post said. "It is still too early to determine when the base will resume normal operations."
Later, Marines and civilian personnel who evacuated the area were told not to attempt to return to Lejeune any earlier than 7 a.m. Wednesday and that the chain of command will provide updates over the next few days.
Personnel on the Marine base remain under orders to stay indoors Saturday morning, according to a post on the installation’s Facebook page.
Route clearance teams have mostly cleared major arteries around the base overnight and were working on secondary and tertiary routes Saturday. Base residents are still asked to stay off the roads to allow crews to operate unimpeded.
Marines with the II Marine Expeditionary Force were also out early Saturday with two hardback Humvees and two assault amphibian vehicles to help evacuate civilians about three miles away from base on Piney Green Road. Onslow County also requested additional Humvees to help with rescues Saturday afternoon.
On Friday, officials reported widespread power outages – included in more than 600,000 by 1 p.m. Friday across the state. On Saturday, the base reported that gas-fueled generators were still supplying power to emergency operations centers, communication nodes, shelters, mess halls, water distribution facilities and the Navy medical center.
Camp Lejeune has six shelters on the base, where residents were riding out the storm. Non-essential personnel have been released through Monday.
In Jacksonville, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door Friday to pull people out of a local inn after the cinderblock structure began to crumble and its roof started to collapse, the Associated Press reported.
Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, N.C.
Saturday evening, Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the town of Wade ordered mandatory evacuations residents within a mile of the Cape Fear and the Little River, the Fayetteville Observer reported.
Earlier on Saturday morning, Fort Bragg said it is operating on a reduced-manning status through Sunday, according to its Facebook page. Weather emergency personnel should report at their appointed times and other servicemembers should contact their commanders for guidance.
Tornado activity has moved away from Fort Bragg, the post explained, but it is a concern Saturday afternoon and evening. Winds at the military installation are expected to remain in the 40 to 50 mph range throughout the day and weaken overnight. The primary threat Saturday is expected to be rain with additional accumulations of 10 to 15 inches through Sunday night and possibly into Monday.
Southbound lanes of Interstate 95 are closed between mile markers 60 and 70. Water has accumulated in some locations at Fort Bragg and in the surrounding communities, so everyone is encouraged to stay off the roads.
Womack Army Medical Center, the outlying primary care and specialty clinics, clinic pharmacies, elective surgeries and other services will remain closed Saturday. The plan is to resume services on Monday. The emergency department is open, according to its website and the main outpatient pharmacy will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Post Exchanges and commissaries were closed for Friday and Saturday as were all Fort Bragg Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation services. All gas stations on Fort Bragg, except for the Pope station on Armistead Street, are open 24/7 with cards at the pump.
Fort Bragg personnel have been instructed to contact their commanders for specific guidance, and only mission-essential personnel were to report for duty Friday, according to Fort Bragg officials.
Fort Bragg has been designated as one of four Federal Emergency Management Agency support and staging areas for hurricane response.
Forty high-wheeled vehicles and seven helicopters stored in a hurricane-reinforced hangar at Fort Bragg are prepared to deploy.
Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.
Heavy rain has inundated areas in the surrounding communities, according to a Saturday morning Facebook post. Portions of U.S. 17 near New Bern, N.C. 24 in Hubert and other roads are closed because of flooding. Some areas along the coast are in a flash flood emergency and residents are encouraged to stay off the roads unless forced out by rising floodwaters.
"While it may seem that the worst is over, there are still many dangers left in the wake of the storm," an afternoon Facebook post said. "The base is still dealing with flooding, broken trees obstructing roadways as well as structures and downed power lines. We will let you know when it is safe to return to base and move about freely."
In a video recorded Saturday, Col. Russel Burton, the commanding officer, said he wanted to show everyone why he's telling people not to try to come back to New River yet.
"It's going to continue to rain, the water is continuing to rise," he said. "So, wait until we tell you to come back."
Friday night, the air station posted a video and photos of Marines with Wing Support Squadron 272 assisting in cleanup efforts on base. You can also watch a video of Burton assess damage at New River on Friday.
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
Friday afternoon, the base was under tropical cyclone condition IR (recovery), according to a Facebook post. Recovery crews were making damage and repair assessments to determine when to sound the "all clear." Movement on the air station remains restricted and all gates were closed except to authorized recovery crews.
"Naturally, everyone is anxious to get out and inspect their surrounds, and to resume life as it was before the storm, but during TCC IR, we continue to restrict movement on the air station while our assessment teams clear the roads of serious hazards and assess other risks to everyone here," Col. Todd Ferry, commanding officer, wrote on the air station's Facebook page Saturday.
Cherry Point plans on loosening restrictions in stages as safety levels increase.
"We’re not out of the woods yet with this storm. Winds are slowing, and rainfall amounts are expected to drop significantly in the next 24 hours," Ferry wrote. "But ground saturation will hinder the drainage of all of this rainfall and we will continue to see some flooding of low-lying areas and roadways. There is still a risk of falling trees due to the combination of saturated soil and roots that have been weakened by Florence’s sustained high winds."
No serious storm-related injuries were reported.
Ferry said crews were working to clear downed trees and power lines and make repairs to blown transformers and flooded power stations. The steam plant is back up and teams are working to get the hot water distribution system back to full operation.
Travel on public roads on the region is limited and Ferry urged caution.
"Don't survive a major storm only to become a victim of after-storm carelessness," he wrote.
North Carolina National Guard
Members of the North Carolina National Guard were working with the state Emergency Management, Department of Public Safety , Department of Transportation, Forest Service, Highway Patrol and other rescuers in an effort to protect from the storm.
Soldiers in the 1/120th battalion helped with evacuations in New Bern on Friday. Rescue team members went door-to-door checking on residents who were trying to weather the storm and evacuated families as the rising floodwaters threatened their homes.
In Lumberton, soldiers were stacking sandbags under a highway overpass near the Lumber River. Workers used heavy machinery to dump extra sand on a railbed prone to flooding.
Forecasters warn rain will pour on them for days and the Lumber River will continue to rise and likely spill out again. The flood could be as bad as one two years ago that inundated entire neighborhoods. People were rescued from rooftops.
"The county collectively is traumatized by what happened," said Donnie Douglas, the editor of the local newspaper, the Robesonian. "And what might be happening again."
Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C.
On Friday, as Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina, Marines here continued their training, a spokesman said.
Training continued Saturday, according to a video posted on Facebook. Brig. Gen. James Glynn and Sgt. Maj Rafael Rodriguez said they are on track for a graduation on Friday, as scheduled, and are set to get new recruits on Tuesday night.
"We remain prepared, so please rest assured that your Marines and recruits remain safe," Rodriguez said.
When South Carolina lifted its mandatory evacuation of Beaufort County, home to Parris Island, the base terminated earlier evacuation orders. All personnel have until midnight Wednesday to return to the base.
Photos posted to the Parris Island Facebook page, dated Friday, showed recruits conducting drill practice and martial arts training. The base is home to about 7,000 recruits and 1,500 permanent personnel.
Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
On Saturday afternoon, an evacuation order for the Air Force’s Joint Base Charleston was terminated and all personnel have been recalled, according to a Facebook post. Personnel residing in Georgetown and Horry Counties are exceptions to the recall.
Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., was housing 1, 973 Navy personnel, family members and 43 pets evacuated from Joint Base Charleston. Evacuees were authorized to return home beginning at noon on Saturday and no later than 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday.
Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.
The Base Exchange and Commissary will be closed through Sunday. The Shoppette will be open from 1 pm to 10 pm Sunday. The Fitness Center will be open as normal on Sunday. Base personnel advised to remain indoors in case of power outages, downed trees and possible flooding.
Following the guidance of local officials, non-essential personnel were given the choice to evacuate. All F-16s have been flown out of the area.
Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C.
Florence’s impact here is expected to begin in the next 48 to 72 hours, Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle Jr., the post commander, said on Facebook on Friday morning.
“We continue to stock supplies and posture ourselves for immediate recovery actions. Training will cease before we begin to receive winds (and) rain to ensure the safety of our soldiers,” he said. “In addition, if we are requested to support local emergency operations, trainees will not participate in those efforts.”
Soldiers can call home after the major effects of the storm pass before resuming training.
Beagle urged off-post residents, veterans and retirees in the Fort Jackson area to use on-post facilities to ensure to stock up on emergency items. The pharmacy and clinic remain open. He also asked that people shelter in place and continue to monitor all forms of communication for updates.
Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
The Defense Logistics Agency has established expeditionary distribution centers at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., and Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., with prepositioned stocks of meals, ready to eat; bottled water; gasoline and propane; and industrial generator sets.
Hill has also been designated as a FEMA support and staging area for hurricane response and relief supplies. Others are North Auxiliary Airfield in South Carolina and Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.
Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
The commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic lifted the emergency evacuation order for active-duty Navy and civilian personnel, dependents of active-duty servicemembers and active-duty reservists residing in Virginia Zone A on Friday.
The order allows personnel and families to return through Sunday and still receive reimbursement for travel.
On Saturday, MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters of HSC-7 were recalled from the USS Abraham Lincoln to Norfolk so that they will be better positioned to provide support.
#USNavy MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters of HSC-7 are recalled today from #USSAbrahamLincoln to Naval Station Norfolk. They'll be better positioned to provide support if required in the aftermath of Hurricane #Florence, now a tropical storm. pic.twitter.com/7zK5foLr1Z— U.S. Navy (@USNavy) September 15, 2018
Ships and aircraft started heading back to Hampton Roads on Saturday and will return to homeports over the next several days, according to the Navy.
The return plan for Norfolk-based aircraft gives priority to rotary wind assets, to allow for additional land-based rotary wing defense support to civilian authorities support, if requested. All Navy ships and flyable aircraft in the Hampton Roads area were ordered to sortie on Monday, ahead of Florence.
Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.
The Virginia governor lifted the mandatory evacuation order for all Zone A residents on Friday. Col. Sean Tyler, 633rd Air Base Wing Commander, posted to Facebook that the base will allow personnel living in area to return home. The base’s limited evacuation order has also been terminated.
Evacuation allowances will continue until Sept. 16, Tyler said.
Despite the storm’s turn away from Virginia, base officials still expect high winds and storm surges of up to 6 feet off the coast of the base. These elements, combined with saturated ground, heavy rainfall and sustained winds, could cause flooding and damage beyond Friday.
U.S. Northern Command prepositioned resources
About 20 Air Force helicopters from Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., are ready to respond for search-and-rescue operations.
More than 100 Army helicopters from Fort Drum, N.Y., Fort Bliss, Texas and Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., are on standby for search-and-rescue, emergency aeromedical evacuation, and utility duties such as commodity and personnel transport.
The ships USS Kearsarge and USS Arlington, along with embarked elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Expeditionary Strike Group 2, have been deployed. The ships are positioned to chase the storm and provide Defense Support of Civil Authorities from the sea, should support be requested. The ships have an embarked Fleet Surgical Team, four MH-53 Sea Dragons, six MH-60 Sea Hawks, and three ship-to-shore landing craft utilities. The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked aboard Kearsarge and Arlington, includes approximately 800 Marines, six MV-22 Ospreys, three CH-53 Super Stallion and three UH-1Y Super Huey helicopters, as well as a host of ground vehicles, generators and other expeditionary equipment.
About 240 high-water vehicles from Fort Stewart, Ga., Fort Drum, N.Y., and Fort Campbell, Ky., are available for ground search-and-rescue, commodities distribution, citizen transportation and patient movements. The U.S. Transportation Command has three C-17 Globemaster III aircraft ready to respond within three hours, if requested.
2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion Marines load supplies on an assault amphibious vehicle in prep for providing high-water rescues iso civil authorities when requested & tasked by USNORTHCOM. The AAV can conduct ship-to-shore water mobility & maneuver terrain & waterways ashore. pic.twitter.com/t6CPbKVdu9— NORAD & USNORTHCOM (@Norad_Northcom) September 15, 2018
At Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, 35 helicopters were ready for search-and-rescue missions, with the same number from Fort Bliss, Texas.
Moody Air Force Base in Georgia was prepared to send four pararescue teams, six HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and two HC-130 Hercules aircraft. Additional pararescue teams from Patrick Air Force Base in Florida traveled to Moody in preparation to join the response.
Early Saturday, the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron sent 10 special operators to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia so that they can "respond rapidly as conditions permit." The airmen can provide stand-alone communications, air traffic control, personnel recovery and paramedic capabilities.
Stars and Stripes reporters Nikki Wentling and Lauren King and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Julian D. Alford, left, commanding general, Marine Corps Installations East, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, speaks to Retired Sgt. Maj. Yolanda Mayo on Marine Corps Air Station New River about Florence recovery procedures at MCAS New River on Sept. 15, 2018.
DAMARIS ARIAS/U.S. MARINE CORPS