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AF Evacuates Planes Ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac

F-16 Fighting Falcon
F-16 Fighting Falcon

The U.S. Air Force has evacuated 22 F-16s from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., to Fort Worth, Texas, as the military prepares for the tropical storm heading to the Gulf Coast.

The Pentagon says that eight C-130 transports previously evacuated to MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., from Puerto Rico are headed back home now that Tropical Storm Isaac no longer threatens the island. The Hercules aircraft from the 156th Airlift Wing spent a day at MacDill.

National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Crosson said the Air Force flew the aircraft from Muniz Air National Guard Base, Puerto Rico, to Florida on Wednesday.

The F-16Cs of the 482nd Fighter Wing may stay at Fort Worth until sometime next week, as Isaac is not expected to hit Florida until Monday. Weather maps currently show the storm going ashore at the southern tip of Florida, where Homestead is located.

Crosson said it's possible the Air Force will evacuate other aircraft from Florida, though no decisions have been made yet. Commanders on the ground have the authority to make that call, he said.

The Florida National Guard began operating its 24-hour Emergency Operations Center in St. Augustine on Wednesday, working with the state's Division of Emergency Management to meet any needs once the storm hits, Guard officials said in a statement.

While the Air Force moves some of its aircraft to keep them from possible damage, the C-130s of the Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron out of Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., have been flying into the storm since last weekend, Air Force officials said.

Squadron planes fly into the storms to collect data that they pass along to the National Weather Service.

The brunt of Tropical Storm Isaac narrowly missed Puerto Rico as the main part of the storm swerved away from the island as it moved north. Isaac's path flows through Haiti, the Dominican Republican and Cuba before moving up to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

It is anticipated that Isaac will reach hurricane strength once it enters the Gulf.

At Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, officials have raised the base's readiness level to where officials expect destructive and sustained winds greater than 50 knots within 48 hours. Base residents are advised to store three days of essentials, including non-perishable food and water, and to have their cars fueled up and ready to move.

The coming storm has caused officials at Guantanamo to postpone hearings scheduled for five detainees held in connection with the 9/11 attacks.

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