Eglin, Tyndall Hit by Storms But Suffer No Significant Damage

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., suffered only minimal damage from at least one and as many as three tornadoes and heavy rains that tore across the Florida Panhandle on Jan. 9, as Airmen and civilian employees were told to telework as much as possible ahead of and after the storms.

Similar stay-at-home messages referencing the “anomalously strong storm” were issued to those who work at nearby Tyndall Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field. A Tyndall spokesperson could not be reached for comment, but Hurlburt officials said the storms didn’t cause much damage there.

The tornados inflicted severe damage in nearby Panama City and other coastal communities to the south and east, where many residential and commercial buildings were destroyed and power cut off. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for the area.

On Jan. 8, Eglin issued a “mission essential posture” order authorizing maximum telework. Base officials advised personnel that the threat of tornados, thunderstorms, and up to four inches of rain, with localized flooding and winds up to 70 miles per hour, were imminent.

Base officials said some aircraft were placed in hangars for protection, but no aircraft were flown to other bases specifically to shield them from the storm.

Eglin closed its 96th Medical Group, dining services, and the northwest base gate. Except for those considered essential for storm preparation and recovery, Weather Safety Leave was authorized for non-telework eligible personnel.

An Eglin spokesperson said base personnel whose off-base homes were damaged will likely be given time off to deal with the situation.

“We will take care of our Airmen,” the official said. Personnel and base operations will be back to normal operations on Jan. 10, she added.

The storm continued up the East Coast on Jan. 9, threatening flooding and wind damage at other bases in the region. Fort Lauderdale reported a tornado with 80 mph winds.

In 2018, Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle coast, causing massive destruction at Tyndall and significant damage at Eglin. Tyndall suffered numerous aircraft damaged inside their hangars and many base buildings were scraped off their foundations or declared a total loss. In the aftermath of the storm, some missions, like F-22 training, were eventually re-assigned to other bases. Most of the base aircraft able to evacuate to other locations, however, did so. Since then, the Air Force has been more proactive in moving aircraft out of the way of major storm systems.