The Defense Department is well-postured for Hurricane Irma response operations in Florida with maritime and air-ground assets, as the department also continues its response operations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean locales, DoD spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said today in a statement.
Davis said department assets will continue to conduct the evacuation of U.S. citizens from St. Martin in the Leeward Islands when weather permits, and will provide humanitarian assistance -- including water, sanitation, logistics support, movement of disaster relief personnel and humanitarian commodities movement -- in response to U.S. State Department requests.
This afternoon, Hurricane Irma diminished from Category 4 to a Category 3 storm with winds ranging from 111 to 130 mph, according to news reports. Irma’s center is now passing the Florida Keys and will move up Florida’s western coast. The storm is estimated to impact the entire Florida west coast. Landfall by Irma’s “eye” is projected for tomorrow afternoon on the Florida panhandle.
DoD provided the following details on Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico operations:
-- The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the amphibious assault ship USS Oak Hill and the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp are on station in the U.S. Virgin Islands conducting transfer of noncritical care patients and delivery of food and water.
-- The 26th MEU will transfer United Kingdom marines in St. Croix to the United Kingdom Virgin Islands.
-- U.S. Transportation Command continues its support to St. Martin for evacuation and humanitarian assistance, and the strategic lift of commodities to the Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico area.
-- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ power restoration teams, debris removal experts, temporary roofing teams and port survey personnel are on-station.
-- The Defense Logistics Agency is shipping commodities and large generators to the Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico area.
DoD provided the following details on Irma response operations in Florida:
-- U.S. Northern Command is prepositioned with almost 4,500 personnel in the southeast to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Florida state authorities. As Irma clears, airfields will be established in southern Florida and support operations from the sea with air assets provided from the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, the guided missile cruiser USS San Jacinto, and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
-- Search-and-rescue forces, strategic and vertical lift, planning, communication and medical capabilities are readying to deploy for post-landfall response.
-- The Army Corps of Engineers’ power teams, debris removal teams, temporary roofing teams and port survey personnel are on alert and ready in Florida and Georgia.
-- The Defense Logistics Agency will support distribution of over 12 million meals over the next 10 days. All fuel requirements are met.
U.S. Southern Command conducted the evacuation of American citizens from St. Martin to Puerto Rico with National Guard airlift assets. It’s estimated that 2,000-3,000 U.S. citizens still require evacuation. Operations will continue today, weather permitting.
The Secretary of Defense authorized humanitarian assistance support to St. Martin as a result of a French government request to the U.S. government for international assistance. Initial reports from the Bahamas are more positive than expected, and the Nassau airport is expected to open today.