As Isaac Approaches, the Military and FEMA Prepare (Updates)
Soldiers travel through flooded waters on Washington Street in Ocean Springs, Miss. The soldiers, assigned to 1st Battalion, 204th Air Defense Artillery, are some of the 1,500 Mississippi National Guardsmen responding to Hurricane Isaac.
Soldiers in a Humvee travel through a storm surge to assist Hancock County sheriff deputies make contact with civilians stranded near the Gulf Coast in Waveland, Miss. The soldiers are assigned to the Mississippi Army National Guard.
All of the following stories and photos by the Armed Forces Press Service.
Members of the 33rd Maintenance Squadron move an Air Force F-35A Lightning II off the flightline and into a hangar at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Aug. 27. The 33rd Fighter Wing’s joint strike fighters were moved into hangars in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Isaac. The 58th Fighter Squadron hangar held nine A models, while the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 501 hangar stored the 10 B models. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
Maxwell Air Force Base hosts Federal Emergency Management Agency trucks and generators waiting to assist areas in the Southeast effected by Tropical Storm Isaac, Aug. 27. Beginning Saturday, more than 120 semi-trucks filled with water, food, medical equipment, blankets, cots and generators big enough for hospitals began flowing into the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Voss)
As residents along the Gulf Coast of the United States prepare for Tropical Storm Isaac, Airmen and representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are busy setting up an emergency staging site on Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
“The first site to set up was Naval Air Station Jacksonville, but we stood up the Maxwell site once the storm changed track,” said Bond Luddeke, FEMA Region 4 Logistics Coordinator. “We are here to support state emergency operations and ensure necessary supplies are ready for the state to draw on once a request is received.”
Between the FEMA response and the Army Corps of Engineers, there are more than 200 people on 12-hour shifts with plans to flex to 24-hour coverage later tonight as the storm continues its approach.
There are a lot of moving parts in preparing for the storm, but Luddeke insists success is due to the relationship with the base.
“We stage on base versus off base because the infracture is suited to handle the amount of trucks and supplies we receive from all over the country,” said Luddeke. “The support we receive here at Maxwell is tremendous.”
Preparation for a storm response is more than staging supplies; it is about partnership and collaboration at the local, state and federal levels. Once requested, FEMA handles getting supplies to a POD or Point of Distribution, and if needed, bases such as Maxwell often open their gates to evacuees.
“Not only are we working with interagency partners like FEMA, we are working with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. We have about 120 trucks that have come from all over the United States to provide staging for evacuees along the Gulf Coast,” said Col. Trent H. Edwards, 42nd Air Base Wing commander. “FEMA is ready to provide things like ice, food, beds, blankets and cots all staged out of Maxwell AFB, and we have positioned our lodging facilities to accept affected evacuees from the Gulf Coast.”
If needed, Edwards said the base has plans to utilize all its resources including the base fitness center to house evacuees.
“The hope is nothing like this has to take place, but we plan for the worst scenario so we are ready to assist,” said Edwards. “It is all part of being a team.”
Darlene Gnuschke, Air Force retired and Biloxi resident, receives help from Maria Ainaga, head bagger at the base commissary with loading cases of water and other hurricane supplies into her trunk Aug. 27, 2012, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. Keesler personnel are taking preventative measures to prepare and protect themselves and Keesler’s assets as the base commander has declared HURCON 3, meaning destructive winds of 58 MPH or greater are expected as Hurricane Isaac approaches. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)
More than 33,500 National Guard personnel and nearly 100 aircraft are available to the governors of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, as Tropical Storm Isaac threatens states along the Gulf of Mexico, Defense Department officials said today.
Army Maj. Gen. Augustus L. Collins, Mississippi’s adjutant general, called about 1,500 National Guard personnel to state active duty this morning in support of emergency operations in anticipation of the storm’s potential landfall on or near the Mississippi Gulf Coast later this week. Guard soldiers and airmen will begin arriving today in coastal counties, preparing to support security operations, search and rescue, debris removal and commodity distribution, officials said.
In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal has activated 4,126 National Guard personnel to assist with evacuation and logistics.
Defense Department facilities near Isaac’s projected path are taking actions to alert, prepare and secure their equipment, facility and personnel for the storm. Homestead Air Reserve Base, MacDill Air Force Base, Tyndall Air Force Base, Duke Field and Hurlburt Field in Florida, as well as Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, La., have relocated their aircraft, or have evacuations in progress, officials said.
In a conference call with reporters today, Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, said people should not take the storm lightly.
“In this case we have a tropical storm that we’re forecasting to become a hurricane,” he said, “and it certainly concerns me that people don’t take it seriously, because right now they see it as a tropical storm and may not believe that it’s going to strengthen.
“We cannot guarantee 100 percent how much it’s going to strengthen,” he continued. “We’re forecasting Category 1. It could end up being a little stronger than that, perhaps a 2, [or] it could end up being a little weaker than that, perhaps a tropical storm. That’s strong enough, in any of those cases, to produce problems with regard to wind and wind damage.”
A tropical storm packs winds up to 74 mph. A Category 1 hurricane has winds up to 95 mph and a Category 2 storm’s winds are in the 96 to 110 mph range. U.S. Northern Command is coordinating the Defense Department’s support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state and local response activities.
The command has activated portions of its Region 6 Defense Coordinating Office and Defense Coordinating Element to Baton Rouge, La., to validate, plan and coordinate potential DOD support of FEMA’s hurricane response operations and to facilitate DOD’s support of potential life-saving and response operations, Northcom officials said in a news release.
Northcom also has deployed portions of its Region 1 DCO and DCE to Clanton, Ala., and its Region 7 DCO and DCE to Pearl, Miss., to backfill the Region 4 DCO and DCE members, who are deployed to the Florida Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.
Additionally, the command has designated Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., and Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., as incident support bases.
Master-at-Arms 1st Class Michael Dozier weighs down a sign directing evacuees to the welcome center security training building 266 at Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss. NAS Meridian accepted almost 80 evacuees trying to escape the path of tropical storm Isaac. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey H. Kyhl)