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Air Force, Navy brace for hurricanes

Mike Mount
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As Tropical Storm Isidore threatens to gain strength again in the Gulf of Mexico, military installations on the Gulf Coast of the United States are battening down hatches, sailing ships to other ports and flying aircraft out of harm's way.

Isidore is forecast to come ashore in Louisiana Thursday morning.

By Tuesday evening, a number of bases had evacuated ships and aircraft to safer locations.

The military has numerous contingency plans to make sure planes, helicopters and ships at more than 20 military installations potentially in the storm's path are safely secured.

Air Force

Since Monday, several Air Force bases along the Gulf Coast have elevated their "Huri-con" threat conditions and evacuated aircraft to bases further inland, where winds would be diminished and the storm's effects greatly decreased.

Keesler Air Force Base near Gulfport, Mississippi, has sent five small C-21 transport jets to Randolph Air Force Base in Texas and 16 WC-130 weather monitoring aircraft to an Air National Guard base at Little Rock, Arkansas and to Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.

In Louisiana, the 926th Fighter Wing at the Air National Guard facility in New Orleans has evacuated nine A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jets to Barksdale Air Force Base in northern Louisiana.

At Hurlburt Field in the panhandle of Florida, the Air Force 16th Special Operations Wing is keeping an eye on the storm and is ready to evacuate more than 60 special operations MC-130s, AC-130 gun ships and MH-53 helicopters to secure locations around the country, base officials said.

At nearby Duke Field, the 919th Special Operations Wing has moved five unidentified aircraft to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, according to Air Force officials.


Atlantic Fleet officials decided Monday to put five of their six destroyers and frigates, based in Pascagoula, Mississippi, out to sea, away from the storm's path.

The sixth ship is undergoing maintenance and is being secured, according to an Atlantic Fleet spokesman.

"The decision to sortie the ships from Pascagoula is based on concerns for the safety of sailors and preservation of the ships and associated equipment," a spokesman for the naval station said.

The Navy also must also worry about some aircraft in the region.

At the Naval Air Station Pensacola, the base is equipped with hangars capable of standing up to winds of hurricane force. A spokesman for the base, Patrick Nichols, said he expects many of the training aircraft to be put into hangars. Several others are already aboard ships out at sea, he said.

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Last week, Hurricane Isidore struck the western part of Cuba, causing severe damage to some areas. In the coming week, another hurricane could strike the eastern part of the island, where the lone U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is home to thousands of military personnel and nearly 600 detainees from the war in Afghanistan.

The latest projections have Tropical Storm Lili making landfall near Guantanamo Bay Friday morning, and growing to hurricane strength.

Pentagon officials say there is a contingency plan regarding the detainees, whose new detention facilities at Camp Delta are strong enough to weather heavy storms but could be damaged or destroyed by a severe hurricane.

Details of the plan are classified, but Pentagon officials said it would involve moving the detainees to a predetermined separate and secure location on the base.

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