100 Percent of Tyndall Housing Unlivable After Hurricane Slams Base

A hangar at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, stands shredded after Hurricane Michael ripped through the base Oct. 11, 2018. (Screenshot from DoD video)
A hangar at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, stands shredded after Hurricane Michael ripped through the base Oct. 11, 2018. (Screenshot from DoD video)

About 600 military families face long waits to return to housing destroyed by Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle, the commander of the National Guard said Friday.

Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told defense reporters that "100 percent of the housing on that base is uninhabitable" after the eye of Michael passed over Tyndall as a Category 4 storm.

The families were safely evacuated before the storm hit, and the service will have to find other accommodations for them until repairs can be made, he said, adding he had no idea on a timeline for restoration of base operations or repairs for the demolished housing.

He noted that Tyndall is the main base for training on the F-22 Raptor, the Air Force's most advanced fighter, and also serves as a center for training on battle management.

"As far as figuring out a timeline" for repairs to housing and a return to operations, "I'm not informed at this point," Lengyel said.

The base near Panama City, Florida, "took a beating" from the hurricane, but 50 F-22 Raptors stationed there had been flown out to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and Texas Fort Worth Alliance airport before the storm hit, Col. Brian Laidlaw, commander of the 325th Fighter Wing, said in a Facebook post.

However, the Air Force said it anticipates that some F-22s that had been left hangared at the base were damaged in the storm. Officials have not publicly said how many of the aircraft might be damaged.

Laidlaw said the 3,600 airmen and family members stationed at the base won't be allowed to return until their safety can be ensured.

"I know that you are eager to return. I ask you to be patient and try to focus on taking care of your families and each other. We can rebuild our base, but we can't rebuild any of you," Laidlaw wrote.

At a Defense Writers Group session at George Washington University, Lengyel said a total of 3,583 Guard soldiers and airmen had been activated in the response to the hurricane. Most of them -- 2,932 -- were from Florida, he said, and 625 were called up in Georgia.

He added that another 133 from the Guard were still activated in North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, but they are expected to be released soon.

A total of more than 10,000 Guard soldiers and airmen were on standby for possible call-up in the response to Hurricane Michael, Lengyel said, but he expected that they would not be needed.

Lengyel said that most of the Guard's response is still in search-and rescue-mode and efforts at debris clearance. He also said that that Guard had set up 11 distribution points to supply food, water and other assistance to stranded residents.

The Army reported that "serious communications problems in the Panhandle" caused by storm damage are limiting operations.

In the effort to restore power, the Army's Corps of Engineers is ready to install 55 generators when requested by state authorities and has another 30 generators en route to the area, officials said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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