The Army has positioned more than 16,700 soldiers as well as civilians from the Army Corps of Engineers in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and continental United States to assist with recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
More than 150 boats, 3,400 trucks and 680 generators are in use or have been made available to governors of states and territories where the hurricane made landfall, Army spokesman Col. Patrick Seiber said in an email Sunday.
“Governors are best postured to determine the needs of their residents and establish response priorities, and are currently using Army National Guard soldiers to help meet those needs,” Seiber said.
The active Army is involved as well.
The 101st Airborne Division, of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is positioning its helicopters to be used in search and rescue operations and resupply of food, water, medical supplies and other necessities the state may need.
The 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is overseeing the Army’s wheeled-vehicle effort, officials said. A convoy of about 100 high-water vehicles and nearly 400 soldiers are on their way from Fort Bragg to help locate and rescue people trapped by the flooding.
From the Air Force
Additionally, more than 950 airmen are supporting Hurricane Irma rescue and recovery operations, with another roughly 800 airmen assisting in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen said in an email Monday.
Air Force C-5s and C-17s from multiple bases are bringing supplies, including helicopters, to Homestead Air Reserve Base, which is just south of Miami, to support search-and-rescue operations.
Rescue missions already underway have evacuated more than 1,000 U.S. citizens from St. Maarten, Yepsen said.
Evacuations of U.S. citizens from St. Maarten will be completed Monday, according to a Department of Defense press release. The DoD is also coordinating the evacuation of other citizens from the British Virgin Islands and plans to provide support to any further State Department requests.
National Guard, military prepare for Hurricane Irma response
As of Monday, Air Mobility Command aircraft have flown 30 missions transporting 937 passengers and more than 500 short tons of resources and equipment to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Island and Florida, said Col. Christopher Karns, a spokesman for AMC.
Over the weekend, AMC airmen conducted airfield assessments in St. Croix and St. Thomas so that military aircraft could safely land to provide medical and contingency response support. The airmen also delivered a team of search-and-rescue personnel to Puerto Rico, and flew more than 300 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to Orlando in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.
Navy and more
In addition to soldiers and airmen, the USS Abraham Lincoln, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, arrived off Florida’s east coast Sunday night with 24 helicopters, according DoD. The USS Iwo Jima, an amphibious assault ship, and the USS New York, an amphibious transport dock, are expected to arrive today, as well. The ships will participate in rescue and recovery missions in south Florida and the Florida Keys.
Since making landfall, Hurricane Irma has been downgraded to a tropical storm. However, Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates still show 34 percent, or about 5 million, of Florida’s residents are without power, and the main water line in the Florida Keys is reported to be off-line, Seiber said.
Civilian members of the Army Corps of Engineers are already working in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to restore power, and they could head to Florida if needed. One area engineers are watching is the aging Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee, Seiber said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday the state intended to keep water levels in the canals surrounding the dike as low as possible to avoid overburdening it, but did not foresee trouble given the estimated rainfall at that time, according to the Miami Herald.