Southeastern USAF Bases Brace for Hurricane Dorian

An airman assigned to the 723d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron guides a tow truck into a hangar on Aug. 30, 2019, at Moody AFB, Ga. All Moody aircraft were hangared or secured in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian. Air Force photo by A1C Hayden Legg.

Air Force bases across Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina on Sept. 3 sent their employees home and prepared their facilities for Hurricane Dorian to sweep up the southeastern US coast.

The storm was expected to make landfall on the Florida coast the evening of Sept. 3 as a Category 2 storm, after lingering over the Bahamas and causing serious damage to the islands.

The 45th Space Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla., expected winds faster than 58 mph at both Patrick and Cape Canaveral AFS to hit by 10 p.m. Sept. 3. In comparison, Dorian brought winds exceeding 185 mph and gusts up to 220 mph to the Bahamas.

According to the National Weather Service’s preliminary data, the hurricane’s 185 mph winds are tied for second-strongest recorded in the Atlantic basin. Dorian is also tied for strongest wind speed at landfall in the Atlantic basin.

“Our teams have done an outstanding job of preparing the base. I thank each and every one of you for taking the responsibility to prepare your homes and ready your families for the next few days,” 45th SW Commander Brig. Gen. Douglas Schiess said in a Facebook update. “With everyone in place, we’re postured to respond to the storm when the ‘Weather Clear’ is given.”

The base sent airmen to the Launch Control Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to ride out the storm, and is urging personnel to inform their chain of command of their location as the storm progresses.

JB Langley-Eustis, Va., anticipates hurricane-force winds by nighttime on Sept. 6. "Thank you for your patience as we continue to monitor the storm to make the best decisions possible in the coming days," said Col. Clinton Ross, 633rd Air Base Wing commander.

Moody AFB, Ga., sent its A-10s and HC-130Js to Little Rock AFB, Ark., in advance of the storm. The base expects rain showers and isolated thunderstorms as the storm approaches, with possible damaging winds as it passes to the east.

The 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah IAP, Ga., dismissed non-essential workers until Sept. 6, though people supporting base operations will remain at work. The city of Savannah also imposed a curfew beginning in the evening of Sept. 3.

To the north, JB Charleston, S.C., issued a limited evacuation order for certain military personnel, civilians, and families in specific vulnerable areas. It’s unclear when they can return, according to a Charleston release.

Shaw AFB, S.C., ordered civilians to go on administrative leave beginning Sept. 4, with only mission-essential personnel ordered to stay on duty. Most facilities were expected to remain open.

Maxwell AFB, Ala., opened as an incident support base late last week. It is hosting the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Defense Logistics Agency to prepare for the storm.

“While we don’t know what will happen when Dorian makes landfall, we can be ready to provide assistance,” Col. Patrick Carley, commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing at Maxwell, said in a release.

As the hurricane’s expected path shifted east, bases on Florida’s west coast began to relax. MacDill Air Force Base, near Tampa, returned to normal work on Sept. 3 after receiving “consistent favorable” forecasts, according to a wing update.

Homestead ARB in south Florida posted that it was expecting to return to normal operations on Sept. 4 after the storm passes north, with administrative leave for employees ending.