WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2016 — Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said today that the department has not yet received requests for assistance in advance of Hurricane Matthew, the Category-4 storm that today is passing Haiti and Cuba and heading toward the Bahamas and the east coast of Florida.
According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center in Miami, Hurricane Matthew is centered about 30 nautical miles south of Tiburon, Haiti, and about 78 nautical miles south of the eastern tip of Cuba, moving north at more than 10 miles an hour.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds have been measured at 145 miles an hour, NOAA says.
The eye of Hurricane Matthew is expected to hit far-eastern Cuba later today, NHC forecasters say, and hurricane models show the hurricane moving along or just off the east coast of Florida and further north along the coast, NOAA says, possibly as far as Massachusetts by Sunday morning, Oct. 9.
“This is a serious storm and … we do stand ready to provide support in the region as needed,” Cook told reporters today during a Pentagon briefing.
On the department’s preparations for the hurricane’s approach, he said, U.S. Southern Command is standing up a joint task force commanded by Navy Rear Adm. Cedric Pringle in anticipation of requests for support. Southcom is moving nine helicopters from Honduras to the Cayman Islands.
“The Navy is also looking at possibly deploying ships,” Cook added, including, if necessary, the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, the Mercy-class hospital ship USNS Comfort, and the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde.
Over the weekend, Cook said that about 700 family members and 65 pets were evacuated from Naval Station Guantanamo in Cuba to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, using four C-17s and two C-130s.
“These family members will stay at Pensacola until it's safe to return,” he said, noting that the remaining military and civilian population will shelter in place and be prepared to support recovery efforts when it’s safe to do so after the storm passes.
“The detention facilities at Guantanamo can withstand the current projected storm strength,” Cook added, “and the 61 detainees there will shelter in place.”
If the hurricane intensifies, Cook said, a plan is in place to move the detainees to other shelters on the base.(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)