As Hurricane Matthew continues barreling towards Florida and the rest of the US east coast, the US military is making preparations for land fall, evacuating equipment and in some cases servicemen and women bases in the path of the category four storm.
Evacuations began in Florida yesterday at 11:00 a.m., when the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base in Cape Canaveral moved to "Hurricane Condition II," and started moving non-mission-critical personnel, Military.com reports. The base commander could release remaining troops could "once HURCON II actions are accomplished to protect unit mission assets," a release from Patrick AFB said. For more on the danger Hurricane Matthew poses to Patrick and the Kennedy Space Center, Gizmodo has an excellent primer.
Moving further north, USAF spokesperson Erika Yepsen told Military.com that Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina is at "Hurricane Condition III," and is moving all 30 of its operational C-17 Globemasters to Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio (shown arriving, above), Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, and Campbell Army Airfield in Kentucky. Joint Base Langely-Eustis in Virginia is following a similar procedure, dispatching 44 F-22 Raptor and T-38 Talon fighters to Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Ohio. Meanwhile, Shaw AFB in South Carolina and Seymour-Johnson AFB in North Carolina are studying an evacuation plan – their positions further inland could explain why evacuations haven't started yet.
The US Navy, meanwhile, has sortied numerous ships in the path of the storm. In a statement, the Navy confirmed that cruiser USS Anzio, littoral combat ship USS Montgomery, and amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima are traveling into northern waters from Mayport, FL to ride out the storm. The Cyclone-class patrol ships USS Zephyr and USS Shamal moved to berths in Mayport's basin, while the patrol ship USS Tornado and the destroyer USS Farragut will remain in dry dock. Four more ships – USS The Sullivans, USS New York, USS Fort McHenry, and USS Milwaukee – will shelter in place at Mayport. The Navy hasn't revealed evacuation plans for its sprawling base in Norfolk, VA.
Where the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale the National Hurricane Center uses categorizes storms based on wind speed, the US military's Hurricane Condition levels call for a certain level of base preparedness based on wind speed. The main differences between the two are that HURCON thresholds are lower while a lower number represents a more serious situation. Both HURCON II and III kick in when sustained wind speeds are forecast to hit 58 miles per hour or more in a 72-hour period – those wind speeds are barely worthy of a tropical storm, per the Saffir-Simpson scale. Stage three represents a preliminary preparation stage, while condition two is a final preparation stage, Military.com reports.