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Warships sail to safety as Dorian looms

With the eye of a strengthening Hurricane Dorian glancing at southeastern Georgia, military officials told Navy Times on Wednesday evening that 23 vessels sortied out of Virginia ports, leaving 19 others to hunker down as the storm lurches north.

The parade of warships leaving Naval Station Norfolk and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek included the aircraft carriers John C. Stennis and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the amphibious transport dock New York, the fast attack submarines Albany and John Warner, four guided-missile cruisers, seven destroyers and one distinguished guest — the Royal Netherlands Navy’s advanced air-defense and command frigate De Ruyter.

Second Fleet officials indicated that those being heavy-weather moored to remain in port due to ongoing maintenance included the aircraft carriers Harry S. Truman and George H.W. Bush; the fast attack subs La Jolla, San Francisco and Boise; the ballistic missile submarine Wyoming; and the amphibious warship sextet of Whidbey Island, Arlington, Kearsarge, Tortuga, San Antonio and Mesa Verde.

Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, the commander of 2nd Fleet, ordered crews to take extra precautions to prevent their vessels from being damaged, including adding storm lines, dropping anchor and disconnecting shore power cables, officials said.

Aircraft at Naval Station Norfolk’s Chambers Field and Naval Air Station Oceana are being stowed in hangars that are rated to withstand high winds, while others will be flown to other locations to avoid the storm.

It’s a different story for military personnel and their families.

Only “mission essential” personnel are expected to report to Navy installations in Hampton Roads, with the exception of Norfolk Naval Shipyard, according to Navy Region Mid-Atlantic spokesman Alton Dunham

The yard will conduct normal operations on Thursday and Friday and workers should report on time as scheduled, Dunham said in a Wednesday evening email to Navy Times.

Hours earlier, Rear Adm. Charles Rock, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic’s commander, issued an emergency evacuation order for all non-essential active-duty service members and their families, activated reservists and civilian Department of Defense and Navy employees for a wide swath of coastal North Carolina.

The affected areas include all residents in Hyde and Dare counties, plus those personnel living in the Carteret County town of Beaufort, the Currituck Outer Banks and everyone on Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Figure Eight Island.

Rock also set Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness I for all naval units east of Raleigh, which alerts personnel to prep for sustained destructive winds greater than 50 knots over the next 12 hours.

“The safety of our personnel and their families is our top priority,” said Rock in a prepared statement emailed to Navy Times.

Rock warned personnel and their families that roadways could become congested as coastal residents flee west.

“I ask that everyone traveling please keep safety in mind and remember to muster with their chain of command when they reach their safe haven,” he said.

Rock urged personnel and their families to review their Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System account information.

Those who are unable to contact their parent command or need assistance for family members should visit the NFAAS website or call (877) 414-05358, officials added.

The Royal Netherlands Navy guided-missile frigate De Ruyter departs Naval Station Norfolk on Wednesday. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks/Navy)
The Royal Netherlands Navy guided-missile frigate De Ruyter departs Naval Station Norfolk on Wednesday. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks/Navy)

Shortly after 5 p.m. in Miami, Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter crews reported that Dorian is packing sustained winds at around 110 mph as it approaches the South Carolina coast.

With Dorian moving north-northwest at about 8 mph, the National Hurricane Center extended a storm surge warning to Poquoson, Virginia, including the Hampton Roads region, plus a tropical storm warning from the North Carolina-Virginia border to the Chincoteague Island Coast Guard Station.

Eastern portions of the Carolinas are expected to receive up to 15 inches of rain, more than twice what Hampton Roads should expect, forecasters said.

Hurricane trackers continue to warn that Dorian threatens to unleash large and life-threatening swells and tornadoes on coastal communities from Florida through North Carolina.

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