Forecast models predict storm's eye could strike Florida Keys and then the Everglades
The US Navy is deploying battleships to provide relief and support if needed
The US Navy has deployed the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and other battleships to get into position to provide humanitarian relief and support from the effects of Hurricane Irma if requested.
Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of US Fleet Forces Command, also ordered the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima and amphibious transport dock ship USS New York to join the Lincoln to support federal, state and local authorities responding to the impending Category 4 hurricane and its aftermath.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Farragut, already underway conducting local operations, was also ordered to join the group, according to a press release from the Navy.
“These ships are capable of providing medical support, maritime civil affairs, maritime security, expeditionary logistic support, medium and heavy lift air support, and bring a diverse capability including assessment and security,” the release said.
The large carrier deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln would also provide deck space to launch continuous helicopter operations to and from shore should they be needed to assist in recovery operations after the storm.
This follows a deployment of helicopters Thursday from the USS Wasp amphibious warship to assist with damage assessment and medical evacuations from St. Thomas and St. Croix in the Caribbean, which were struck by Irma earlier this week.
In addition, the amphibious warship USS Kearsarge – with 690 US Marines aboard – and the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill are moving closer to areas in Irma’s path from their position off the coast of Florida.
And as the storm closes in on Florida, many of the US military bases in the region were preparing to evacuate their personnel and equipment.
MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, home to the the 6th Air Mobility Wing, US Central Command, US Special Operations Command and the 927th Air Refueling Wing ordered a mandatory evacuation of all base personnel on Friday, with the exception of certain mission essential personnel.
In addition, the Air Force ordered hundreds of its aircraft and personnel from their positions throughout Florida and Georgia earlier this week, while continuing to support relief operations.
Navy warships and submarines from Florida and Georgia were also put out to sea to ride out the storm.
According to the Navy, the Iwo Jima and New York departed Mayport, Florida on September 5 to bring aboard more than 300 Marines and Sailors in Norfolk, Virginia to assist with the expected need following the storm.
“The top priority of the federal government, as we work together to support civil authorities, is to minimize suffering and protecting the lives and safety of those affected by Hurricane Irma,” the Navy said.