Air Force Evacuates Dozens of Aircraft as Hurricane Dorian Nears

Senior Airman Tori Payne salutes a pilot from the 74th Fighter Squadron prior to takeoff for Little Rock AFB, Ark., Aug. 30, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Moody’s A-10C Thunderbolt II’s were relocated to Little Rock in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Eugene Oliver)
Senior Airman Tori Payne salutes a pilot from the 74th Fighter Squadron prior to takeoff for Little Rock AFB, Ark., Aug. 30, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Moody’s A-10C Thunderbolt II’s were relocated to Little Rock in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Eugene Oliver)

The U.S. Air Force has moved more than 150 aircraft from bases along the East Coast in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian.

As of Tuesday, the hurricane, which has been downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 2 storm with 110 mile-per-hour sustained winds, has increased in size, moving northwest at 5 mph toward South Carolina's shores.

The unpredictable storm has forced the Air Force to evacuate dozens of its aircraft in recent days to avoid possible storm surge floods and high-speed winds.

The service told Military.com that airmen have moved the following:

Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews said the aircraft have been moved to bases across the U.S. for the duration of the storm.

Related: Coast Guard Rescues at Least 19 in the Bahamas as Hurricane Dorian Kills 5

To ensure airmen are ready to move as quickly as possible for storm response, Air Mobility Command has multiple cargo airlift aircraft on alert, said spokeswoman Capt. Nicole Ferrara.

There are two C-17 crews at Travis Air Force Base, California, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, sitting on alert, while two C-5 Supergalaxy crews are doing the same at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, and Travis, Ferrara said in an email.

And there's a C-17 crew at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, "postured and prepared to respond to requests," she said.

"Alert status ensures there are aircrews on 'standby to stand by' as well as members already in crew rest, ready to be called upon, and capable of reporting for a mission within hours of notification," she said.

An airfield assessment team from the 821st Contingency Response Group at Travis has been tasked to deploy to Homestead in Florida to assist in disaster-relief efforts in the Bahamas, if needed, Ferrara said.

More aircraft are likely to fly out in the days ahead to avoid potential storm damage.

Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, has begun preparing its F-16 fighter aircraft to evacuate ahead of the storm, Col. Derek J. O'Malley, commander of the 20th Fighter Wing, said in a Facebook post. Starting at noon Wednesday, civilians assigned to the 20th will be authorized to take administrative leave as the base transitions to using mission-essential personnel on duty only, O'Malley said in an accompanying video.

All non-essential personnel were told to evacuate from Patrick Air Force Base on Monday. The base declared HURCON I status Tuesday, a condition set when the forecast calls for the arrival of 50-knot (58 mph) or greater surface winds within a 12-hour period.

Joint Base Charleston has begun operating on a HURCON II status, which extends the time period to 24 hours. The base issued a limited evacuation order in conjunction with the South Carolina governor's evacuation order.

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

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