UPDATED: Navy Prepares Ships for Hurricane Irma Relief Operations

Naval Air Station Key West has no power, but no major damage was reported and the command reported no injuries among the sailors who remained on base as Hurricane Irma passed.

Commanding officer Capt. Bobby Baker and 35 members of his staff sheltered in a Category Five rated hotel and remained in contact with the Navy throughout the storm, which made landfall about 18 miles from the base 9:10 Sunday morning, according to a Navy spokesperson.

Baker’s staff is now starting to assess the air station’s condition. USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) arrived late Sunday night with 27 helicopters to assist damage assessment and is positioned to offer disaster relief if requested, according to U.S Northern Command, which is coordinating the military’s response with civilian authorities.

Amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) and amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LHD-21) were reported by Northern Command as moving into position near Key West, to also assist with disaster relief, if requested.

Guided missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG-99) and cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG-56) are also positioned to assist with the recovery effort, if requested.

The Navy sent the ships to sea ahead of the storm’s landfall last week, in order to be able to quickly assist with recovery efforts. The ships can provide medical support, security, logistic support, medium and heavy lift air support, and can assist state and federal agencies assessing damage. Before the Navy can provide assistance, a formal request must be made by state and federal officials. As of Monday morning, a request had not been made.

As for the status of other Navy installations in Florida, other than a storm surge of about three feet above normal reported Monday morning in Mayport, the Navy was waiting for Irma, now downgraded to a tropical storm, to fully leave the region to assess damage at Mayport, and facilities in Panama City, Orlando, and Pensacola.

While parts of downtown Jacksonville appeared to have been flooded by the storm, a Navy spokesman in Mayport said the Navy’s facilities appeared to have handled the storm fairly well.

The National Weather Service reported winds gusts of 80 to 90 mph at both Jacksonville International Airport and Mayport. Multiple trees were reported down at the National Weather Service Jacksonville office. The service also issued a flash flood warning for the region. Pensacola, according to the National Weather Service, was on the edge of Irma’s storm bands.


Also, ahead of the storm, the Coast Guard sent rescue crews from Coast Guard Air Station Miami to ride out the storm in at Coast Guard Air Station Savannah, Ga. Rescue crews from Clearwater, Fla., conducted rescue operations before the storm, assisting boaters trying to sail away before Irma hit.

In the U.S. Virgin Island, the Navy is already fulfilling a formal request to provide humanitarian and recovery assistance. USS Wasp (LHD-1), USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) and USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), along with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Federal Emergency Management Agency staff, arrived Frida to provide humanitarian aid and provide medical airlifts.

The military has evacuated more than 1,900 people from the region during the past three days, according, to a statement from the Pentagon.

USNS Wright (T-AVB 3), aviation logistics support ship, is expected to leave Philadelphia Tuesday to support relief efforts in near the Virgin Islands. Wright is assigned to the Military Sealift Command Prepositioning Program and carries aviation maintenance equipment to support U.S. Marine Corps fixed and rotary wing aircraft.