Tuesday, August 28, 2012

TOP STORY >> Units find shelter as hurricane moves in

Leader senior staff writer

Forty-one Hurricane Isaac-evacuated transport planes from Florida and Mississippi had joined Little Rock Air Force Base’s C-130s on the flight line for safety by Monday afternoon,

It has been standard operating procedure for the Air Force to move planes and personnel to LRAFB and elsewhere from bases that could be impacted by hurricanes or tropical storms until the danger to the aircraft, crews and maintainers had passed.

This hurricane evacuation includes CV-22 Ospreys of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field at Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and six C-130s from Hulbert and from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., according to Col. Trae Watkins of the 19th Airlift Wing Mission Support Command.

The evacuation also includes a small number of PC12, which are small personnel carriers, he said.

Some of the personnel who flew planes here had returned to Keesler in case more aircraft are needed to be moved to LRAFB.

As for the personnel, “We filled up all of our buildings, then pushed the rest downtown,” Watkins buildings, then pushed the rest downtown,” Watkins said. “They will return shortly after the weather passes.”

As of Friday afternoon, about 400 “hurrevaced” personnel where staying either on base or at local hotels.

Similar evacuations of aircraft and airmen to Little Rock occurred most recently in August 2011 to escape Hurricane Irene.

According to Keesler’s web- site, “The last major storm in the region, Hurricane Katrina, caused massive damage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, leaving 236 people dead, 67 missing, causing an estimated $125 billion in damages. Keesler Air Force Base suffered nearly $1 billion in damages alone.”

Hurlburt Field officials decided Saturday to fly most of their planes to LRAFB for safekeeping. Evacuation flights started early Sunday morning and were expected to continue into Monday, officials said.

The remnants of Hurricane Isaac will hit Arkansas’ southern border about 1 p.m. Thursday and completely cover the state by noon Friday. Weather forecasters are expecting central Arkansas to get hit with three to six inches of rain between Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning, but high temperatures will remain around 90 degrees all three days.

Winds will blow through the area at 20 to 30 mph.