Navy ships and submarines based in Hawaii not undergoing maintenance have begun to depart Pearl Harbor as Hurricane Lane bears down on the state, Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander of Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, announced this morning.
Ships that sortie, or exit the danger area, will be positioned to help respond after the storm, if needed, the Navy said.
“Based on the current track of the storm, we made the decision to begin to sortie the Pearl Harbor-based ships,” Fort said in a release. “This allows the ships enough time to transit safely out of the path of the storm.”
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On Tuesday, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam said it would be “working to sortie ships from the harbor, and aircraft will begin departures.”
“I can confirm that preparations are under way to coordinate and plan to evacuate the aircraft (from Hickam), but I can’t get into the specifics of where they are going or how many,” 1st Lt. Veronica Perez, a spokesperson for the 15th Wing at Hickam, said today.
Two batwing B-2 stealth bombers could be seen from Waikiki flying away from Hickam at about 9:30 this morning. Three of the bombers flew in last Wednesday from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri for training around Hawaii.
Aircraft stationed at Hickam include F-22 Raptor fighters, C-17 cargo carriers and KC-135 refueling tankers.
Navy ships will remain at sea until the threat from the storm subsides. Hawaii-based Navy aircraft will be secured in hangars or flown to other airfields to avoid the effects of the hurricane, the service said.
The Navy said it sometimes orders a sortie during potentially extreme weather conditions to reduce the risk of significant damage to ships and piers during high winds and seas.
Some ships will not get under way due to repairs being made, and crews are taking extra precautions to avoid potential damage, the Navy said.
Depending on the severity of the storm, commanding officers can decide to add additional mooring and storm lines, as well as drop the anchor and disconnect shore power cables.
“Personnel in Navy Region Hawaii, including on Oahu and Kauai, should follow hurricane awareness and preparedness guidelines established by city/county and state government,” the Navy said.
Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, the state’s largest industrial employer with nearly 6,000 civilian and military workers, said it is following the Navy Region Hawaii lead for storm preparations and the onset of heavy winds.
Spokesman John Whitehouse said that basically means “a general cleanup to make sure there’s no debris or anything that’s loose that could become a projectile.”
“Right now, we’re not looking at sending anyone home today, (but) we’re following the situation as well as the lead of” what Navy Region and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will be doing, he said.
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl announced that it will be closed Friday and Saturday as Hurricane Lane continues to move up the Hawaiian Island chain.
“Cemetery caretakers are making severe weather preparations and will remove flowers from grave sites today and secure the vases to prevent them from scattering or causing damage to the cemetery,” Punchbowl said in a release.
The cemetery said it is scheduled to be open Thursday for interment services, “but visitors are encouraged to wait until the storm passes and the cemetery reopens to visit Punchbowl.”
“The cemetery will reopen after the storm passes and damage assessments have been completed and the cemetery is safe for visitors,” the release said.