09/13/18 — Base aircraft deploy ahead of Hurricane Florence

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Base aircraft deploy ahead of Hurricane Florence

By Joey Pitchford
Published in News on September 13, 2018 5:50 AM

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base commander Col. Donn Yates ordered the repositioning of 66 aircraft to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on Wednesday in advance of Hurricane Florence but decided against ordering an evacuation of base personnel.

Sixty F-15E Strike Eagle jets and six KC-135 refueling tankers, along with about 100 base personnel, were repositioned, according to Seymour Johnson public affairs.

The move is a "precautionary measure to avoid potential damage to resources" stemming from Florence, according to public affairs.

The personnel leaving for Barksdale with the aircraft were chosen for their areas of expertise, including aircraft maintenance. In a statement written to SJAFB airmen Tuesday evening, Yates said there are no plans to evacuate the base.

"Based on the information available, I have made the decision to not evacuate the base," Yates said. "This aligns with the county and city. There are no plans to evacuate the local area.

"Coastal areas are evacuating to Goldsboro. We are fielding calls from national agencies to base from here, as they respond to the coast."

Yates said personnel are responsible for the safety of their families and property.

"If you decide to take leave and depart the local area during the storm, make sure your property is taken care," Yates said. "You are responsible for this."

The base will instead reduce its staffing to about 100 people, Yates said, in order to allow the majority of airmen to ride out the storm in safety.

In response to comments on the SJAFB Facebook page, the wing clarified why the evacuation of its aircraft was necessary, without the evacuation of personnel.

"To give some perspective, the reason aircraft are repositioned is because (of) the lack of protection from wind and rain damage under canopies," SJAFB officials wrote. "The threshold for aircraft damage is very low compared to houses."

Yates asked SJAFB personnel to keep up with current information through their individual chains of command, and by paying attention to the base's Facebook page. Sgt. Amanda GutiƩrrez, with SJAFB public affairs, said that the Facebook page will be updated as often as possible, even if power is lost.

The SJAFB "Straight Talk" line also will be available at 919-722-0000, and will provide information as well as contact numbers for emergencies that may arise.

"The safety of our airmen and their families is our number one priority," Yates said. "We continue to remain vigilant in preparation for Hurricane Florence, and we are planning for all potential outcomes.

"I would like to take this time to thank everyone for their flexibility and taking care of our people, base and community."