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Navy installations prepare for Hurricane Florence

NORFOLK — Most piers are empty at Naval Station Norfolk, Sept. 12, 2018, after the announcement of Sortie Condition Alpha. Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command ordered all U.S. Navy ships in the Hampton Roads area to sortie on Sept. 10, ahead of Hurricane Florence. Some ships will not get underway due to maintenance and are taking extra precautions to avoid potential damage. 

NORFOLK (NNS) — Installations from Navy Region Mid-Atlantic as well as Navy Region Southeast have been making final preparations for Hurricane Florence for several days to protect the fleet, personnel and families.

Florence has been moving steadily across the Atlantic Ocean since it was first monitored by the National Hurricane Center Aug. 28 as a tropical wave over Western Africa.

Eventually upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane Sept. 2, Florence now has sustained winds of 125 mph and is on a track to make landfall along the coast of the Carolinas by Friday, with storm-force wind and rain impacts as early as Thursday.

So serious is the threat from Florence, local officials have issued evacuation orders for coastal and flood-prone regions in an area of more than 1.5 million people – including military personnel and families – primarily in southern Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Installations from Navy Region Mid-Atlantic and well as Navy Region Southeast have been making final preparations for the storm for several days.

On Monday, Sept. 10, Adm. Christopher Grady, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, ordered all Navy ships in the Hampton Roads area to set Sortie Condition Alpha.

“Our ships can better weather storms of this magnitude when they are underway,” Adm. Grady noted. “The number one mission is to protect the fleet, to include keeping our personnel and their families safe.”

More than 30 ships got underway from Naval Station Norfolk and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek ahead of the hurricane.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, Rear Adm. Charles W. "Chip" Rock, commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, authorized an emergency evacuation order for active-duty Navy and civilian personnel, dependents of active-duty service members and reservists on active duty residing in Hampton Roads and Virginia Zone A.

The order followed the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s evacuation order for the same area and will remain in effect until Sept. 16.

Rock ordered all Navy installations Sept. 12 in the Hampton Roads area to set Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness Two (II) as Hurricane Florence is forecasted to bring high winds and rain to the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness II means destructive winds of greater than 50 knots associated with a tropical system are expected within 24 hours.

Navy preparations include:

  • Securing hazards and buildings throughout the installations
  • Protecting essential equipment
  • Moving small craft to safe havens
  • Preparing sandbags
  • Removing debris from drainage areas
  • Removing large items from the waterfront, such as dumpsters and vehicles

Decreasing slightly in strength but expanding in size, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), Florence is currently at Category 3 hurricane.

As it makes landfall, catastrophic impacts are expected, from damaging winds to flash flooding to widespread power outages. The storm’s surge, which is the rise in sea water above normally dry land at the coast, could reach up to 13 feet at peak, according to the NWS.

Hurricane-force winds are expected to bring down trees and damage homes and businesses. Forecasts project the center of Florence to make landfall around the South and North Carolina border on Friday as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane.

As it nears the coast, the storm’s forward motion will slow to a crawl, but the winds and rain will continue full-strength, according to the NWS.

With a mission to support the fleet, fighter and family, the team at Navy Region Mid-Atlantic has been working around the clock to provide support and information in advance of Hurricane Florence.

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