MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- As hurricane season approaches and memories of Hurricane Katrina still linger, residents of Fightertown, as well as all of the Lowcountry, are highly encouraged to start preparing for the worst now, as the hurricane season begins June 1.
“This year’s hurricane season is forecasted to be just as strong or stronger than last year’s because of the warmer temperatures in the Main Development Region waters,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Abbott, the Air Station weather officer.
Hurricanes that would hit South Carolina usually originate as tropical storms from the area of Cape Verde located off the coast of Africa in the North Atlantic, which is also known as the Main Development Region.
Predictions vary for the 2006 season, but one source has forecasted 17 tropical storms and nine hurricanes. If true, this would actually be less than the 2005 numbers of 26 and 13, but still far more active than the average hurricane season, according to the Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science.
A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with winds of 74 miles per hour or greater that is usually accompanied by rain, thunder and lightning.
Hurricanes and tropical storms throughout the official season – which lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30 - vary in strength and size, but all have the potential of leaving devastating affects on communities.
Hurricanes are divided into five categories based on wind speed and storm surge, with Category 1 being the weakest and Category 5 the strongest.
The Air Station works closely with local civilian emergency management to design and implement destructive weather plans to protect both the Air Station and its residents.
“We are prepared for hurricane season; every year we get more and more ready,” said Alan Archer, Fightertown’s deputy director of operations. “We are tied into the civilian emergency management better than probably any other military installation in the country.”
If an evacuation is needed, the call will come from the Air Station’s commanding officer. Using Hurricane Katrina as an example, it is best to plan to evacuate instead of riding out the storm, and if an evacuation is mandated, residents must leave all military housing facilities as directed, according to Archer.
“Evacuating the Air Station is carefully considered by the commanding officer,” Archer said. “A major hurricane is a Category 3 or larger storm. If a storm of this magnitude is tracking for our portion of the East Coast, most likely there will be a mandatory evacuation. The governor of South Carolina would direct an evacuation of the affected region. However, the commanding officer could direct a mandatory evacuation of all the Air Station facilities and quarters regardless of the storm’s size. Everything depends on the storm’s strength and track.”
In case of a hurricane evacuation, Air Station Operations staff and selected Marines will stay behind to keep watch over the installation and immediately begin clearing roads of debris and making repairs to damaged facilities after the storm has passed.
“The Ops staff will man the Emergency Operations Center, which is directly linked with Beaufort officials in their Emergency Operations Center located in the Beaufort County Government Center in downtown Beaufort,” Archer said.
The following information is provided to assist Fightertown residents in preparing for a hurricane.
- Stay tuned to local television and radio stations for emergency information.
- Learn the official evacuation routes inland and be ready to drive at least 120 miles inland to locate a safe place.
- Have disaster supplies on hand: a flashlight and extra batteries; a portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries; a first aid kit; emergency food and water; a non-electric can opener; essential medicines; cash and credit cards; and sturdy shoes.
- Make arrangements for pets. Pets are generally not allowed in official shelters.
- Fuel up and service family vehicles.
- Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity and water.
- Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or the fire department.
- Protect your home. Cover your windows with permanent shutters, plywood panels or other shielding materials. Inspect and secure mobile home tie downs. Bring in lawn furniture and other loose, lightweight objects, such as garbage cans, garden tools, etc.
- Locate suitable facilities to store outdoor recreation vehicles such as ATVs, boats and Jet Skis.
- Develop an emergency communication plan to use in case family members are separated from one another.
For 24-hour information on the local weather conditions, call the destructive weather information hotline at 1-800-343-0639 or the Beaufort County hotline at 1-800-963-5023. As weather conditions develop, updates will be posted on the hotline as well as the commander’s channel (channel 8 on Hargray, channel 2 on Comcast) and the MCAS Beaufort Weather Web site ttps://www.beaufort.usmc.mil/weather/beaufort_weather.htm
If the commanding officer orders a mandatory evacuation for all hands, service members are required to follow posted hurricane evacuation routes inland a minimum of 120 miles.
Reimbursement will only be available to defray the costs of an ordered mandatory evacuation. Claims are for active duty personnel and dependents, excluding pets. The CO will set the mileage limit at the time of evacuation. Lodging expenses will be reimbursed at the local rate of the evacuation site with valid receipts. The use of the Government Travel Charge Card is only authorized for the mandatory evacuation period.
For more information on hurricanes, hurricane preparedness, or weather warnings visit www.nhc.noaa.gov or www.weather.gov.