This story has been updated at 4:10pm EDT with comment from U.S. SOCOM and the latest news from NOAA’s National Weather Service
The base commander at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, has issued a mandatory evacuation of families and non-essential staff to be completed by Tuesday morning, as forecasters currently expect Idalia to make landfall early Wednesday.
Col. Adam Bingham, MacDill’s base commander, issued the installation-wide evacuation announcement on Monday for all “non-mission essential individuals and dependents” in a statement. The National Hurricane Center expects Idalia to become a hurricane later Monday — and turn into a “dangerous major hurricane” in the Gulf of Mexico by early Wednesday.
“They are well rehearsed in this, being on the Florida coast,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Monday. “This is something that they train for and are prepared for to ensure continuity of operations.”
Military personnel and civilian employees at the base must receive approval to evacuate from their chain of command, according to the statement. The Limited Evacuation Order, meant to reimburse personnel for travel expenses during an evacuation, will be released in the near future, it said.
MacDill is home to two combatant commands — U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command – and more than two-dozen other military units including the 6th Air Refueling Wing, which flies the KC-135 Stratotankers.
“Our hazardous weather procedures continue to allow us to accomplish our mission, while ensuring the safety of our personnel and their families,” the CENTCOM news desk emailed Military Times.
“SOCOM is not going to minimum staffing,” Lt. Col. Allie Weiskopf, a spokesperson from the command, emailed Military Times. “Personnel who live on base are being relocated inland, and SOCOM HQ essential personnel will be operating out of multiple contingency locations to ensure there is no degradation to our mission. We’ll return when local / federal authorities say it’s safe.”
Last September, Category 4 Hurricane Ian forced MacDill to evacuate personnel. Ian avoided a direct hit on the base, but 13 people were killed during the storm.
In addition to the base evacuation, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in a statement that the Florida National Guard is mobilizing 1,100 personnel to support anticipated areas of impact. A dozen aircraft and 2,400 high-wheel vehicles are also being mobilized as an emergency response to the hurricane.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media