The Air Force and Navy have evacuated aircraft from more than a half dozen installations relocating them to safer bases ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac. The governors of Mississippi and Louisiana have activated more than 5,000 National Guard members.
The storm is pushing north with hurricane warnings issued to four states along the northern Gulf Coast to include Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Weather experts expect the storm to gain strength in the Gulf of Mexico growing into a Category 2 hurricane with wind speeds up to 110 miles per hour. Forecasters predict the storm could hit New Orleans Tuesday.
More than 35,000 guardsmen and nearly 100 cargo and transport aircraft are available to the governors under hurricane warnings, Lt. Col. Tom Crosson said in a statement Monday. All Defense Department facilities within the expected path of Isaac are operating under hurricane conditions.
"[Local] commanders are taking appropriate actions to alert, prepare and secure their equipment, facility and personnel for the storm," Crosson said.
Installations evacuating aircraft inland, away from Isaac's anticipated path, include MacDill Air Force Base, Eglin Air Force Base, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Tyndall Air Force Base, Duke Field, Hurlburt Field and Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida; and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, La.
The Pentagon has chosen to keep the 19 F-35s stationed at Eglin at the base. The F-35 hangars at Eglin can withstand a Category 4 hurricane with winds up to 145 miles per hour, officials said.
Hurlburt is the home to Air Force Special Operations Command. Leaders chose to fly most aircraft stationed at Hurlburt up to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. Those evacuations started Saturday.
Along with aircraft, the Air Force evacuated airmen at Hurlburt with the 11th Intelligence Squadron who monitor full motion video collected by aircraft in Afghanistan around the clock. These airmen provide intelligence products to soldiers and special operators deployed to Afghanistan.
The F-22s stationed at Tyndall will be sent to Shepherd Air Force Base in Texas.
Isaac could come ashore anywhere along a roughly 300-mile stretch of Gulf Coast between the Florida panhandle and Louisiana, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.
Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi has ordered a temporary halt to all permanent-change-of-station and temporary duty assignment moves to the base. Airmen who have already processed out of their current stateside base are to stay where they are. Those with assignments to Keesler from overseas can proceed as long as their travel schedule includes leave time to a destination outside the storm area, according to a statement issued by the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. If the stop movement order is still in place when their leave ends, they will not be able to sign in at Keesler, and any additional time will be charged to their leave account," AFPC assignments advisor William Houston said. Overseas airmen who do not intend to take leave in route back to the States, and who haven't yet signed out of their current unit, also must stay in place until further notice.