WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2016 — As Category 1 Hurricane Hermine heads for Florida’s Gulf Coast, the state’s governor has activated about 100 National Guard soldiers and airmen as part of an initial preparatory package and is prepared to activate more if needed, a Defense Department spokesman said today.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said another 6,000 soldiers and airman will be placed on alert, and that under a program called the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, 34,000 additional personnel can be brought in from other states to help in Florida, if needed.
EMAC, established in 1996, offers assistance during governor-declared states of emergency through a system that lets states send personnel, equipment and commodities to help disaster relief efforts in other states. Through EMAC, states can also transfer services, such as shipping newborn blood from a disaster-impacted lab to a lab in another state.
“This is a well-equipped Guard [in Florida] under the governor's control that has about 2,500 high water vehicles, eight helicopters, 17 boats and more than 700 generators,” Davis said, “so the Guard is working very well as they are intended to do, to be able to support people in their greatest time of need.”
Hermine Grows From Tropical Storm
According to the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Center, warnings for previously Tropical Storm, now Hurricane, Hermine extend southward along the west coast of Florida to Englewood, including the greater Tampa/St. Petersburg area, and southward along the east coast of Florida to the Flagler/Volusia County line.
Hermine is moving toward the north-northeast at nearly 14 miles per hour, and this motion, with a slight increase in forward speed, is expected during the next day or so. On the forecast track, the center of Hermine will be near the Florida coast in the hurricane warning area tonight or early Friday, the NWS says.
Current maximum sustained winds exceed 70 mph with higher gusts. The NWS anticipates Hermine’s wind strength will exceed 80 mph. Hermine’s winds extend outward up to 185 miles, mainly to the northeast and southeast of its center.
Davis said Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, has been identified as a staging area.
“It has trucks and trailers available in the event that [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] requests it to be used as an initial staging base for further requirements,” the captain said.
A Navy spokesman told the Pentagon there are no plans right now to sortie ships or aircraft in response to the impending weather, but that all installations in the affected region will be monitoring the weather closely.
Davis said the Air Force indicates that some aircraft have been relocated from a few Florida locations, including Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base, both located near the Gulf of Mexico on the state’s Panhandle.
Meanwhile, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu, is issuing advisories for Hawaii’s main island on Hurricane Lester, located about 720 miles east of Hilo, and Tropical Storm Madeline, located about 165 miles south-southwest of South Point.
“There's no immediate impact to U.S. military operations there,” Davis said, “but U.S. Pacific Command is continuing to address the situation and taking appropriate cautionary measures.”
Some aircraft have been moved into hangars and Pacom will monitor installation tropical cyclone conditions of readiness over the next several days, Davis added.
“As always, whether in Hawaii or on the East Coast in Florida,” he said, “we encourage all of our personnel to stay tuned to local and stay plugged in with their chain of command for further updates.”(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)