Hurricane Michael Brings “Catastrophic Damage” to Tyndall

An image taken by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite image shows hurricane damage at Tyndall AFB, Fla. NOAA photo.

All of the personnel assigned to “ride out” Hurricane Michael have been accounted for and no injuries were reported, but much of Tyndall AFB, Fla., was destroyed when the monster storm slammed into the base on Wednesday with winds exceeding 150 miles per hour.

The Air Force said Thursday there is “severe damage” to the base’s infrastructure, with no power, water, or sewer service. As of Thursday afternoon, the Air Force was working to set up aerial surveillance of the base so it can better understand the extent of the damage and start clearing a path so security, water, latrines, and communication equipment can be provided.

Tyndall on Monday evacuated all non-essential personnel and most of its aircraft, sending its F-22s and T-38s to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

“The bad news is there is significant and widespread damage to the base. In the short term it is just not safe to return there,” Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mike Holmes said in a video statement. “So I’m glad that you evacuated. I’m glad that you followed the guidance, and I hope you are in a safe and comfortable place. Please stay there.”

In a Thursday morning statement, base officials said recovery teams were just beginning initial assessments, but they already have found “widespread catastrophic damage,” including damage to nearly every home on base.

Aerial video posted by WXChasing on Facebook showed extensive damage to almost all buildings on the base, including hangars and shops next to the flightline. One hangar’s roof was destroyed, showing multiple damaged QF-16 targeting drones and twin-propeller aircraft inside.

“At this point, Tyndall residents and evacuated personnel should remain at their safe location,” 325th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Brian Laidlaw said in a statement. “We are actively developing plans to reunite families and plan to provide safe passage back to base housing.”

As of Thursday morning, Michael had lessened to a tropical storm and moved north through Georgia and into North Carolina. At least two people had been killed in the Florida panhandle.

To the west, Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field remained in limited operations as they focused on restoring essential services, according to base statements. Normal work schedules will begin Friday.

In advance of the storm, US Northern Command deployed search and rescue teams and supplies around the affected area in anticipation of a large recovery effort, NORTHCOM boss Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon.