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School let out early Tuesday and U.S. Navy military and civilian nonessential personnel stationed at Naval Air Station Sigonella got to go home early after heavy rains and high winds once again pummeled the Italian island of Sicily.

By about noon, “water began pooling” on some Italian roadways, making driving potentially dangerous, base spokesman Lt. Jon Groveman said.

“As a precaution, we went down to essential personnel only and allowed others to go home if they wanted to in order to make sure that personnel got home safely during daylight hours,” Groveman said. He defined essential personnel as mostly medical and public works employees.

In mid-December, prolonged pounding rain ravaged the naval base and floodwaters not only impaired operational capabilities at NAS II, where the airfield is, but forced the mass evacuation of the Marinai military housing complex. No one was injured.

No flooding was reported as of Tuesday afternoon at NAS I, NAS II or either of the base housing areas, Groveman said.

Rain was forecast to be intermittent throughout Tuesday, ending sometime overnight, with clear skies predicted for Wednesday, Groveman said.

About 1 p.m., school officials sent children home early because of the inclement weather, Stephen Decatur School Principal Debbie Folmer said.

Dismissal was an hour earlier than normal for the elementary pupils, and about 90 minutes early for high-schoolers, she said.

“The closure was closely coordinated with the base, and all our kids are safe,” Folmer said.

Despite Tuesday’s early release of employees, the Navy Exchange and commissary remained open as usual open, Groveman said.

“This is not like it was last time,” he said, referring to the December flooding. The early release “is just a precautionary measure to let people navigate the roads safely during daylight hours.”

As of Tuesday, about 400 of the nearly 500 Marinai families evacuated following the devastating flooding in December had returned to their houses, Groveman said.

“I think within a week all of the previously occupied units will be reoccupied,” he said.


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