Air Operations Unaffected After Tornado Hits Tyndall

F-22 Raptors are parked near the runway at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Oct. 15, 2018.  (U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)
F-22 Raptors are parked near the runway at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Oct. 15, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

While a tornado touched down in Florida's Panhandle over the weekend and moved over Tyndall Air Force Base, officials say the base did not sustain significant damage and normal operations were not affected.

There has been "no impact" to units or missions stationed at Tyndall, said base spokesman Don Arias. The base was devastated in October by Hurricane Michael.

The tornado "did not impact the recovery schedule for the base in any way," he told Military.com.

It swept through the south side of the base, which houses logistics and support. The flight line and aircraft remain on the north side of the base and were undamaged, Arias said.

"The flying mission is unaffected," he said, referring to ongoing air training or exercises in coordination with Eglin Air Force Base, roughly 60 miles away.

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Arias said a roof on a lodging facility known as the Sand Dollar Inn was damaged. Visiting or temporary duty airmen not assigned to a dorm often stay there.

"We had to move a handful of people out of that building to other buildings on base," he said.

Other parts of the inn complex were already temporarily closed and under repair from Hurricane Michael.

The commissary, base exchange, dining facility, walk-in clinic and pharmacy on the south side of the base remain open and were not impacted, Arias said.

Tyndall currently has roughly 2,000 people on base.

"This number fluctuates as people [permanent change of station] in and out of the base, and personnel on temporary duty move in and out," Arias said. "There were no assignment adjustments or airmen rerouted due to the tornado."

The service has been assessing building-by-building "what needs to be done" at the base, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in November.

She noted that roughly 500 airmen who have missions at Tyndall have moved to other bases, but said the majority would return.

The mission mainly affected by the hurricane was the base's F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.

Some were undergoing maintenance and could not fly before the storm, and so had to be left behind, Wilson said.

About "95 percent of the buildings were damaged in some way; now we're figuring out which ones need to just be leveled, and which ones we need to rebuild," Wilson said in November. "Base recovery as a whole is probably going to three to five years' time."

The National Hurricane Center estimated Hurricane Michael reached 150 mph winds as it made landfall. Tyndall at one point was in the eye of the storm.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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